Mike Sullivan is notorious (and somewhat infamous) for shuffling the Penguins’ lineup often in an effort to gauge who works well together, and who brings each other down, as any head coach would.
He knows that Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel have great chemistry, but finding a winger to play the right side has been a sort of conundrum for him so far; that top line has already seen four different guys get cycled in and out through 11 games. Question marks were littered all around that right wing spot up until Dominik Simon got slotted to Guentzel and Crosby’s side in the Penguins’ tilt with Vancouver last Saturday.
Upon getting the chance to line up on Crosby’s flank like he often has in the past, Simon busted open immediately, feeding a gorgeous one-timer pass to Crosby. Since that primary assist, Simon has gone on to collect six points in his last five games (a career-long point streak for him) as an important cog in the first line.
A cumulative review of some of Simon’s stats through the Penguins’ last five games:
- Six total points (two goals, four assists)
- 56.25 average Corsi For percentage, including an A-plus grade on eye tests, possession metrics, and puck control over both blue lines
- High Danger Chances For (HDCF) in 63rd percentile, with five goals coming from the HDCF area while on the ice
- 15 scoring chances for and one against in Tuesday’s matchup with the Islanders, good for an incredible 94th percentile and a whopping 84 Corsi For percentage
- A power play goal to open the scoring and push Pittsburgh in the lead Thursday night, even though it would ultimately go on to lose to NYI in a shootout
Lately, Simon has been demanding our attention when he’s on the ice, and other than Evgeni Malkin being lights out, he’s been one the most noticeable Penguins by a wide margain.
This is all seemingly a response to him getting stapled to the bench in the 6-5 track meet with Edmonton last week that needed overtime to decide its fate. Constrctive criticism obviously does this kid well.
During the offseason and days leading up to opening night for this 2018-19 season, Simon’s teammates were all quick to defend his place on the roster, and after his recent performances, it’s hard to find a false word in any of those quotes. Crosby is always one of the first guys to compliment Simon, and is constantly praising his playmaking ability, vision, and focus on keeping the puck on his stick during entries into the attacking zone. The skill set and knowledge he brings nightly is universally loved on this roster, and it’s always been a point of emphasis in the locker room.
The coaching staff, after deciding to keep Simon up in Pittsburgh, also showed how high they are on him, despite some backlash from the fanbase. Now, those same fans might need to eat their words.
Naturally, it’s still too early in the season to make sweeping generalizations, especially when the prospect of Derick Brassard’s return might send Simon to a different line again, but getting a depth guy like him going on the scoresheet will only boost the already prolific play of his superstar teammates, who right now, don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.