The Pittsburgh Penguins universe revolves around Sidney Crosby. It’s been a tough season for Crosby, one highlighted by oft-shifting wingers around him. Nothing has really worked, or worked for very long.
Enter Daniel Sprong? After tweeting this last week, it now looks more pertinent than ever after Sprong’s two-goal game Friday night on Crosby’s line.
Buy or sell- best hope to save the season is a 20 year old kid showing he’s too good at scoring goals to be ignored? https://t.co/xiVfSu2A5e— PensBurgh (@Pensburgh) December 30, 2017
After this season, it would be foolish to proclaim Sprong the answer, or the Penguins fixed, turned the corner, etc. However, Sprong on the first line probably delays a major trade. The longer this audition goes on, perhaps it’s all the better for the long-term protection of assets for the Pens.
That said, tonight figures to be a special challenge in Boston. The Bruins won’t be shy to match defensive ace Patrice Bergeron against Crosby on every shift. After Crosby+Sprong so dominated shot attempts against NYI, it will be an uphill battle to come close to the same again.
After the signing of Matt Hunwick last summer a lot of folks (myself included) thought him the natural replacement for Ian Cole given the similarity of statures and skillsets of the two.
But could Jamie Oleksiak be the better “next” Cole?
- Both Cole and Oleksiak were former first round picks
- Both couldn’t establish themselves with their draft team and were traded to the Pens around their 25th birthday (Cole was trade a couple weeks after he turned 25, Oleksiak two days before his 25th bday)
- Both are LH shots that say they can play the right-side, and started their Pens career on 3rd pair RD.
Oleksiak has a long way to go before he’s the go-to guy and sole defenseman to be used on the 3v5 and 3v4 PKs like Cole is now, but Cole wasn’t exactly that player either when he first came to Pittsburgh in early 2015.
We’ll see how Oleksiak continues to progress, but as of now his career path looks very similar to that of Ian Cole’s.
Another interesting Crosby note- his 4 point game Friday night put him in some history with Jaromir Jagr
Sidney Crosby has joined Jaromir Jagr as the only two players with 31 career 4-point games in the last 20 years . pic.twitter.com/Q5gZAukF4Z— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 6, 2018
Speaking of Crosby and Jagr, Sid is just 12 points behind JJ68 for 2nd place in all-time points in Penguins franchise history at 1,067 to 1,079 in a passing of the torch likely to happen within a handful more of games played by Crosby.
And, for all time talk, Friday’s 4 point night moved Crosby from tied-68th (with Slippery Rock Joe Mullen and Pat Verbeek) up to 65th, going by Ray Whitney and Keith Tkachuk. Pretty cool if you’re of a certain age to see #87 (at a spry age 30 at that) push past some guys who had really great careers.
Filip Gustavsson, as profiled here on Pensburgh earlier in the week, was named goalie of the tournament for the recent World Junior Championship.
Some other names to win this honor at the WJCs include: Roberto Luongo, Tuuka Rask, Carey Price, John Gibson...And oh yeah, Marc-Andre Fleury.
Then again, some others have been recent duds at the NHL level (Marek Schwarz, Al Montoya, Jack Campbell) so the award alone doesn’t guarantee NHL success. But, at this point you have to like how the needle is pointing on Gustavsson right now as a prospect on the rise and one of the best prospect goalies in the game.
On the latest “The Full 60 With Craig Custance” podcast, former Toronto Marlie staffer Justin Bourne was on the show and mentioned that none other than Matt Murray was a possibility for the Maple Leafs to acquire in summer 2015 as part of the Phil Kessel trade. Instead, Toronto and Pittsburgh agreed on involving 2014 first round pick Kasperi Kapanen and a 2015 first round pick instead of including Murray.
Being as Murray set the AHL shutout streak at 300+ minutes the season before, it seems difficult to believe that Toronto wouldn’t have wanted him included. However, perhaps that would have come at a higher price of the other pieces.
It still made sense though, at the time the Pens 2 best prospects were Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta. They basically were counting on Pouliot to make the NHL out of training camp before another disappointing preseason ticketed him back to the AHL.
So it would sort of make sense that Pouliot/Maatta were the untouchables and then the next tier of negotiables in 2015 included Kapanen/Murray/Harrington/1st round pick. Toronto even ended up with 3 out of 4 of the above, but unfortunately for them 2+ years later the most valuable piece of the available players clearly was Murray.