Welcome to the National, John Marino and Sam Lafferty. The Penguins elect to use an non-traditional 11 forward and 7 defenseman lineup (instead of the standard 12F/7D).
Welcome to the league, @SamLafferty18 and @j_marino03! pic.twitter.com/pY8aT7noPz— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 8, 2019
The Jets are forced to go with a very inexperienced defensive lineup after Josh Morrissey was deemed unable to play earlier in the day.
Introducing tonight's projected lineup!— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 8, 2019
Presented by @RedRiverMutual & @MIGInsurance
**Lineup subject to change** #WPGvsPIT pic.twitter.com/E4oQnnLArB
A very special ceremony opens the night to honor Mike Lange, the voice of the Penguins. Lange is celebrating his 45th season calling Pens hockey and while the word legend is often over-used these days, he truly is a legend in every sense and we’ve all been lucky to have him around calling games for all these years.
On this Mike Lange Night, we honor the voice of the Penguins.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 8, 2019
Thank you for 45 tremendous years, Mike Lange.
You are truly best in class.
Read more: https://t.co/8pBJhTDUIF pic.twitter.com/XrWTNX8h5O
The Pens strike just 32 seconds into the game. The Jets get a little turned around and lose Sidney Crosby right in front of the net, and that’s not the guy to leave wide open. Jake Guentzel fires in a great pass and Crosby tips it by Connor Hellebuyck to open the game strong early.
CAPTAIN CROSBY WITH HIS FIRST OF THE SEASON! pic.twitter.com/3TdHbRBokc— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 8, 2019
The lead doesn’t last long, about 5 minutes later Mark Scheifele shrugs off Erik Gudbranson behind the net and plays the puck out to rookie defenseman Ville Heinola. The 18-year old rips a great shot that beats Matt Murray to tie the game at 1.
VILLLLLLEEEE!!!— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 8, 2019
: Ville Heinola
1-1 | #GoJetsGo | #WPGvsPIT pic.twitter.com/Z00tOSa4BQ
Zach Aston-Reese smacks the post with a shot. The Pens suffer another breakdown soon when Aston-Reese plays a puck pretty carelessly into the middle of the ice right at the blueline the Nikolaj Ehlers intercepts in stride. Marcus Pettersson is caught flat-footed and screens Murray as Ehlers snaps a hard shot short-side to make it 2-1 Winnipeg.
Seriously, WIRES it!— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 8, 2019
2-1 WPG | #GoJetsGo | #WPGvsPIT pic.twitter.com/FvhVo4PaYl
The Pens repeat a common theme of an injured player leaving the game when Patric Hornqvist is drilled in the side of the leg with a shot. He’s hobbled and leaves in pain and return towards the end of the period to the bench but I don’t think took a shift. Hornqvist would not return for the second period.
The Jets get another great chance and hit the crossbar but the puck stays out.
Shots on goal end 10-8 PIT, scoring chances are tied at eight a piece and WIN has a 4-3 edge in high danger chances per Natural Stat Trick.
This time the Jets strike with a first minute goal of the period, the Pens break down defensively and Tucker Poolman unleashes a shot that goes through the mass of humanity and Murray lets through to make it 3-1.
What a shot!— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 9, 2019
: Tucker Poolman
3-1 WPG | #GoJetsGo | #WPGvsPIT pic.twitter.com/z6frDLMXvd
The injury situation gets even more laughable when Aston-Reese gets hurt taking a stick up high and leaves the game to send the Pens down to nine available forwards in the game.
Winnipeg records the first seven shots on goal in the period before Brian Dumoulin wrists a deep shot in at the 15:16 mark.
The Jets make it 4-1 after a net-front scramble to pop it in after the Pens collapse down but don’t corral it. Neal Pionk, a defenseman, is right in front and scores.
MAD SCRAMBLE!— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) October 9, 2019
4-1 WPG | #GoJetsGo | #WPGvsPIT pic.twitter.com/948Z8BFgnk
Pittsburgh keeps churning and it’s Brandon Tanev who makes something happen when he draws a penalty forcing Heinola to hold him after chipping the puck deep. The Pens get the game’s first power play with just over 5 minutes left in the second period. Pittsburgh gets a few looks at the net but can’t score.
Then bad turns to even worse when soon after the penalty expires Scheifele pulls more magic twisting out and works around Jared McCann. The shot snaps off Tanev’s stick and into the net.
Andy Saucier magic helps for the first time of the season, Sheifele was offside upon entry to the zone by a hair, the Pens challenge and the goal is overturned so it remains 4-1.
The Pens get a net-front scramble of their own in the dying seconds of the period but Hellebuyck makes a good save on Guentzel and the puck stays out.
Shots in the 2nd are 14-12 Pittsburgh, and 24-20 Pens overall.
Pittsburgh gets a good push early, Lafferty tips a shot right in front but Hellebuyck is there. Guentzel-Crosby-Simon do their typical thing with a long cycling shift and a lot of zone time and a couple looks at the net but can’t score.
The Jets kinda look like they’ve shut it down and are packing it in defensively and Lafferty draws a penalty about half way through the third period.
And the clock ticks away. 4-1 loss drops the Pens to a losing record on the young season and still searching for answers.
- Gudbranson only took two shifts in the last 7 minutes of the first period after making a couple of mistakes, including the big one on the first goal against. These are the tough type of chances that players like this can give up and it the goalie can’t cover it up, it’s magnified. Marino replaced Gudbranson with a couple of shifts with Jack Johnson in the interim, though EG went back for the second with regular shifts.
- Sullivan’s decision to go 11F/7D was a curious one and didn’t pay off with Hornqvist’s injury that dropped Pittsburgh to 10 forwards, including Lafferty in his very first NHL games. We’ll see if he does this again, given roster construction of only having 12 forwards and a couple of them (Lafferty, Andrew Agozzino) being unknowns it doesn’t help matters right now, but that one looked a bit like overthinking the situation.
- To wit, with ZAR and Hornqvist out in the first half of the second period, the Pens had 9F+7D available. Marino only played one shift for 36 seconds in that stretch, so effectively they were down to just using 9F+6D anyways. That’s an example of how using an extra defenseman is only going to hamper the team who could have used that additional forward. (Now did Sullivan anticipate losing two forwards? Of course not, but that’s a possibility he opened himself up to and the team had to deal with based decision).
- Marino looked pretty decent in the limited time he saw on the ice. He was willing and able to skate the puck into the neutral zone, demonstrated some pretty good wheels and puck handling ability which is always nice to see from a young defenseman.
- Lafferty showed well in his first look too. Nice skating, four shots on goal, a couple of hits and a penalty drawn.
- Tough night for Murray, he probably wanted a couple back, but a lot of the chances were coming from behind the net quickly or tough turnovers. Rough night for a goalie. Hellebuyck was the better netminder and that made a ton of difference though.
- In silver lining news, the top line was pretty dangerous throughout the night and is looking like they’re playing their way into more chances and zone time with each passing period.
- In not silver lining, just too many passengers. All the defensive pairs were making mistakes, the team defense was coughing up pucks in bad places, the goaltending was subpar. Just a disjointed night with a disjointed lineup that has too many passengers and not enough players playing the right way or ones not good enough to help out....Which of course is more than an alarming trend at this point, it looks like a developing identity.
So now the Pens trudge on. We’ll see what’s up with Hornqvist’s status, but him being knocked out of a game probably isn’t a good sign. If he’s out that makes four of probably the top nine forwards (HQ, Malkin, Bjugstad and Rust) all on the shelf which is pretty difficult to overcome. And it was on this night.