clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday Morning Thoughts: New York Rangers game day edition

Grab a hot cup o’ joe and take in some thoughts on our mind today as the Penguins host the Rangers with a red hot power play, and the Steelers host the Jags

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s a bitter cold Sunday morning and here’s what is on our mind for some random thoughts and observations leading up to an important sports day in Pittsburgh when the Penguins host the Rangers and the Steelers welcome the Jaguars in a playoff game.


In a lot of ways the Pens and Rangers look like two ships going in opposite directions right now, despite both currently having 49 points in the standings (NYR has played 2 less games). Pittsburgh, of course, has won 4 of 5 and three straight and their stars have been absolute dynamite.

NYR has lost 3 of their last 4 (only win coming in a shootout against the last place Arizona team) and has been outscored 14-5 in those three losses, including a 7-2 pasting yesterday afternoon at the hands of their cross-town rivals the Islanders.

It led Blueshirt Banter to say:

The Rangers under Vigneault have gone through some rough patches, but Saturday’s loss was something completely different. The team lacked fire, it lacked direction, and it simply reminded me of another period in “distant” Rangers history. [The end of the Tom Renney era]

The Rangers haven’t won a regulation game since December 19th. Henrik Lundqvist was visibly annoyed that he had to mop up the game yesterday afternoon. Not too much is going right for them right now. Obviously in fighting for a playoff spot against a division rival every game is important, but when you have a chance to add to a team’s unraveling that has to be taken advantage of.


Pretty cool of the NHL to at least have all the bye week teams playing each other as they come out of their breaks. Doesn’t lead to any natural disadvantages. And though Penguin fans have (mostly rightfully) grumbled a lot about this year’s schedule that’s fed them the most back-to-back games in the league, NYR of course is in the same boat and they had to travel yesterday. If anything, a slightly favorable break in the schedule for Pittsburgh.


One unknown for today is in the net. Matt Murray is back in Ontario attending to family matters, which of course we all wish him and his family the best for whatever they’re going through. Since this is a Penguins blog that focuses on a hockey team though, from that perspective the Pens either have to play rookie Tristan Jarry for a second straight day, or give career minor-leaguer Casey DeSmith his first NHL start.

If the Pens had some breathing room in the standings, my default would be the normal of “don’t play a goalie 2 days in a row it’s shown to be a difficult task”. However, Pittsburgh has no room for error and Jarry has been very steady and doing great at keeping pucks out of the net- no small task for Penguin goalies this year. Nothing has been announced officially, but it would be a surprise if Jarry ISN’T in the net at this point, I would have to think.


The Pens power play is so great right now, but did you realize it’s actually historically great? At 27.0%, that’s the highest season rate since Bettman’s lockout of 2004. From

Also, maybe this will drop off in the second half of the season but interesting to note that of the best 15 power plays in the last 13 seasons, there are 4 from this year alone. Good year for power plays!


I don’t like harping on the same things over and over (believe it or not) but the left-side of the Pens is tough to ignore. With Carter Rowney hurt, the team only had 3 healthy centers at the moment, so they’re playing arguably/probably the best LW on the team in Jake Guentzel at center where he isn’t exactly thriving. It’s a band-aid situation, which, oh well sometimes a team has to make due.

It’s a great chance for youngster Dominik Simon to play on the top line, but in 15 career NHL games he’s got 0 goals. He does have 4 assists this year in 10 games and the reputation/perception of “doing the small things” but actual production while playing with Sidney Crosby is preferable. Simon also took 2 minor penalties last game, never a good thing. The Pens need more signs of life from such a spot and it’ll be interesting to see how much longer Simon’s audition goes.


The other top LW on the team at the moment is Carl Hagelin. You know, he of 2 goals in 44 games this season. Hagelin is playing excellent on the PK and though an excuse made for him is he’s played a ton of hockey in the last 4-5 years, his legs don’t look all that tired as his plus speed helps him get around the ice as good as ever, seemingly.

Hagelin looks like he’s gotten some confidence and swagger back in his game with a few assists in recent games. He told Seth Rorabaugh of The Athletic he knows he needs to score more and be more consistent, also adding “And I know what type of player I turn into after Christmas.”

Not really sure how accurate that is- Hagelin only had 5 goals in 41 games (reg season + playoffs) after 12/25/2016, so it’s not like some magic switch is flicked and he automatically starts filling the net in the second half of the season...But, baby steps, I suppose.


Did you see the other night the Washington Capitals prevented a game from going into OT by scoring on the Carolina Hurricanes with less than a second left? That costs Carolina at least one and possibly two points in the standings. Ironically enough, that goal by the Caps might just be a difference-maker at the end of the season if a playoff spot comes down to the Penguins and Canes. The Washington Capitals- even losing when they win!


Switching slightly to football, did you see the Patriots made the AFC championship for a record 7th straight win? They’re a pretty detestable bunch but it’s a results oriented business and no one delivers results like they do. Different format (since they usually only have to win 1 home game to get there) but could you imagine the hate if the Pens made 7 straight Eastern Conference Finals? Would love to live in a world and find out in 5 years.


Speaking of, good luck to the Steelers and all our Pens’ fans readers who will be decked in black and gold all day long. Hopefully it will be an enjoyable sports day from start to finish. We’re calling Steelers 28-17 (so they’ll cover and the over hits too).


The week ahead

After today’s game the Pens fly out to sunny California for their annual CA trip. They play Anaheim on Wednesday then are down the road in Los Angeles on Thursday before jumping up to San Jose for a Saturday game.