12 straight playoffs for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Late so a few thoughts:
—Patric Hornqvist demonstratively calling for the puck on the power play then finishing it off. So great right in front of the net.
—Is Hornqvist rubbing off on Sheary? They’ve been playing together recently and Sheary has a noticeable jump in his step lately. Sheary scored his second goal in as many games by finishing off a rebound from the front of the net. Didn’t seem like an area he was going to very much earlier in the season, great to see him doing so now. So many goals in the NHL are a result of being willing and able to get to the net at the right moment.
-Loved the night for Matt Murray. He wasn’t asked to do much (24 saves) but did have to make a huge breakaway stop with the glove on Artturi Lehkonen and another on Paul Byron. Montreal isn’t a very good team this year, but from the game’s opening shift they did crash the net and into Murray so it wasn’t like they were spectators. Still, the only goals Murray allowed were a point-shot that clipped off a Penguins skate and a power play snipe by a high-skill player in Jonathan Drouin.
—Speaking of power plays, the Pens are looking very good there. 3 goals on the night. Phil Kessel got some good fortune himself with a puck off an opponent’s skate and in for one goal but the other two were the results of simple point shots as mentioned above with Justin Schultz sending the puck in for Hornqvist and another PPG in the 3rd was the result of Riley Sheahan tipping an incoming Olli Maatta point shot. Great night for the “shooooot” crowd.
—One huge potential down note, probably the only of the whole game, was an injury to Kessel in the 3rd period that knocked him out of the game. Predictably, Mike Sullivan had no real update of significant on Kessel after the game, other than confirming the obvious that Kessel left the bench in the 3rd period due to an injury. Kessel has a long ironman streak nearing 700 games but hopefully that’s not too much of a burden to try and keep going. The main thing is that he’s feeling as tip-top as possible in 10-12 days when the playoffs start.
—Sidney Crosby had his personal five game goal streak broken, but he did put on one of the most dominant performances of the year in the faceoff circle winning 22 of 24 draws. Crosby looks dialed in and ready for the playoffs.
—Liked the night of the 3rd pairing of Matt Hunwick and Jamie Oleksiak. They were on the ice for the only 2 even strength goals the Penguins scored, played 15 minutes in change and made no major mistakes. In fact, they were the best Corsi group on the team for the night with 13 events for and only 7 against. We’ll see if that can translate to tougher competition but if the third pair plays so solidly every night, the Pens are in great shape there.
—Quick turnaround to play the Caps tonight. A Pittsburgh regulation win puts them but one point down to Washington in the standings (with the Caps having one extra game to play still). If the Pens want any chance of getting 1st place, they need a regulation win tonight. But, more important than seeding is simply getting into the playoffs in the first place and in that regards it’s mission accomplished for the first major important goal in the quest to do the unthinkable and win 3 straight Stanley Cups in the salary cap era.