Some random Friday take quakes for your viewing delight...
In the last two game, which Penguin forward has been on the ice for the most 5v5 goals? Would you guess Radim Zohorna? ‘Cuz it’s Radim Zohorna on ice for three 5v5 goals. He’s done good things, been in the right spot at the right time and is making things happen.
The Penguins already started to cull the herd, so to say, by trading depth forward Sam Lafferty to Chicago a while back. While some of the excess bodies don’t necessarily need to leave the organization, it would be nice to see Zohorna get the chance to build upon what he’s done and get a real opportunity to play in the NHL. Even with simple stuff, he’s standing out and suggesting there is a player that belongs at this level.
Really love this entry from Radim Zohorna last night.— Danny Shirey (@DannyShireyPGH) January 14, 2022
Takes open ice to the outside, gains blue line and gets puck to forehand, picks head up and completes pass to the middle. pic.twitter.com/uSFdCXcVGd
This is Zohorna’s second season in the Pens organization, and he only has 46 total games in the NHL + AHL combined, due to shortened seasons, stoppages, delays and all that jazz. His combined NHL sample is very small, but also encouraging with 3G+3A in just 11 games.
There’s a real case to be made that Zohorna should be at least get the chance for a while to be playing above all forwards below the “Danton Heinen zone” (Kasper Bjorkqvist, Anthony Angello, Drew O’Connor, Dominik Simon, even Brian Boyle, though the team may defer to the veteran for PK’ing and faceoffs).
That could be important with Jason Zucker skating yesterday in a regular contact jersey, and Brock McGinn freed from isolation and likely to be back on Saturday. It’s dangerous to get too hopeful these days, but the Pens lineup looks like it might be getting better pretty soon (with Danton Heinen, Bryan Rust and Zach Aston-Reese all probably not too far behind McGinn in the COVID return path).
Is Zohorna a top-12 forward on the Pens? Probably not at this point, given their tremendous depth up front. But Pittsburgh is also 0-for-36 games so far this season in having their best 12 forwards all healthy at the same time, and they could go 0-for-the-next-36 as well given the nature and spread of the recent variant and the injuries that happen in an NHL season. Zohorna hasn’t played a ton yet, but from what he’s been doing so far, he definitely deserves the shot to get more looks.
One player who doesn’t need more looks is Tristan Jarry. Jarry has been the Pens’ workhorse this season — and for good reason he ranks top-five in the NHL in wins, save percentage, goals against and shutouts. His Vezina resume is growing and is very real.
It’s difficult not to play that hot of a hand (especially when the backup goalie position has been a true weakness). There have been some stops and starts this season, but Jarry is on pace for 64 starts. In the last three seasons full 82 game NHL seasons, only five goalies have started 65+ games (Cam Talbot twice, Frederik Andersen twice, Sergei Bobrovsky, Martin Jones and Devan Dubnyk). None of those goalies had deep playoff runs, either.
Jarry’s 29 games played this season currently ranks third highest in the NHL.
Modern NHL goaltending isn’t about riding a goalie for 65+ starts in the regular season any more, especially when you’re hoping for 20+ playoff games. It’s a tough spot for the Pens right now to not play Jarry, but his workload management will be a key tracking point for the rest of this season. Jarry has been exceptionally sharp, but last night the Kings poured 45 shots on him. Mikey Anderson (he of 0 goals in 35 games this year before last night) beat Jarry cleanly on a long-range shot that was stoppable. More cracks like that are going to show the more the Pens lean on Jarry.
Sidney Crosby won’t be going to Vegas in a few weeks for the NHL All Star game. There are a couple of schools of thought on this. On one hand, it’s probably a plus for Crosby personally. He can get a weekend off to rest and relax (and train, it’s Sidney Crosby we’re talking about here).
For the players, and especially the older ones like Jaromir Jagr publicly begging off from being selected, going to the game is more of a personal burden rather than having much prestige as an honor. Despite the NHL’s best efforts of suspending players for a game if they choose to opt out of the event, a player generally has little qualms about not going.
However, it’s still not great for the game to have the biggest star not appear at a showcase for the league. Or as Josh Yohe put it-
Also, there is no point of having an all star game if someone of Crosby’s stature isn’t there. I know he missed time early and had a slow start. But it’s just dumb. He’s one of the best players of all time. People want to see him. That’s the point of these games.— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) January 14, 2022
As Yohe also pointed out, the format is to blame. The 3v3 games can be fun and the intensity of the All Star game is always low, so leaning into opening up space and skill for players makes sense.
The trade off for that is 12 player rosters for each division that has eight teams. And the league makes sure each team has one representative, which causes a numbers crunch to mean only one player from many of the clubs will be named to the team. On the surface, Jarry and Jake Guentzel are much more deserving of All Star status.
But the name of the game is “All Star”. With all due respect to Tristan Jarry, Sidney Crosby is the face of the league and the event is far more a marketing and television showcase than an actual sporting competition. While few are likely to tune in for specific players, not having big names of the sport like Crosby and Alex Ovechkin (who has opted out multiple times) lessens the event.
It’s not the biggest deal in the world, but the All Star game would be better with the biggest star players there. Does that mean expanding the rosters a bit an getting exemptions to get them? Perhaps. But this year’s ASG is looking like it won’t have Crosby, or Artemi Panarin or Brad Marchand or Vladimir Tarasenko or Anze Kopitar, none of whom are even in the “last man in” vote. By the vote there is a good chance players like Guentzel, Troy Terry, Sasha Barkov and Steven Stamkos will be left out.
Those are all players or personalities or skill levels that should be at the league’s biggest showcase, and on some level it’s a bit of a shame that the format isn’t perfect to allow the league to highlight various old and new stars who could add more prestige to the event.