The Penguins turned their season around in November, going 7-4-3 on the month to bounce back from a rough October and steer themselves back into the thick of the playoff race. The 17 points that Pittsburgh collected in the standings in the month of November was the tied for ninth highest in the league. Another month or two of performing like that and the team will be well on their way.
Let’s spotlight the individual standouts for the month.
NHL Player of the Month: Sidney Crosby
Crosby was the team’s player of the month in October, and it’s an easy call for him to repeat in November. Like in the first month of the year, Crosby was also named the NHL’s first star of the week during the second month as well. Sid played in all 14 of the team’s game, notching 8G+12A. What is made even more impressive is that 18 of his 20 points on the month were scored at even strength, as the Pens’ power play struggles have continued. Then again, Crosby himself is a large part of the power play, so he probably shares in some of the frustration for the struggles there. If that power play gets back on track, Crosby could be right there competing for the Art Ross. (Connor McDavid scored 23 points in 14 games in the month of November, including a whopping 11 points on the power play).
AHL Player of the Month: Filip Hallander
In nine games played in Wilkes-Barre during November, Hallander was incredible recording 10 points (4G+6A). Hallander’s November also included a call up to the NHL and seeing action in two games (Nov 9 vs Washington and Nov 11 vs. Toronto). After a middling AHL rookie campaign last season when Hallander only scored 28 points in 61 games (14G+14A), the 22-year old looks to have taken the next step and made significant progress in his game at the AHL level. Hallander already has 16 points this year (6G+10A) in 17 games in the AHL and if he keeps that level of production up will be playing his way into contention for a much longer look in the NHL as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
After training camp there was some question about whether Sam Poulin or Drew O’Connor was the most advanced player in the Pens’ organization that was pushed outside of the NHL level, but based on the early results of the 2022-23 season, Hallander has earned the right to pass those names up and for right now put himself in a great position with the strong start to the season that he is having.
How about this setup late in the game, down a goal and short-handed by Hallander?
WOW!#WBSPens take a penalty with 2:42 left, but Drake Caggiula scores shorthanded with 2:01 left to tie the game at 2-2.— Tony Androckitis* (@TonyAndrock) November 26, 2022
Filip Hallander picked up a turnover and fed it across to Caggiula for his 2nd of the season. @InsideAHLHockey pic.twitter.com/l6mElx8PNA
Prospect of the Month: Joel Blomqvist
Lest this just become the Owen Pickering award, Finnish goalie Joel Blomqvist will earn the nod for November. Pickering’s production has tailed off a little in the WHL, though not to a concerning degree, and Blomqvist is one of the few other prospects outside of the organization also worth tracking right now. In the last five games, Blomqvist has only given up 11 goals and has a .914 save% for Karpat in the top Finnish league, which helps raise his season save% to .907%. This is the 20-year old’s first full season in the top league, though he has played portions of the last few years at that level.
There was also a recent article about Blomqvist:
Using the ever-handy google translate machine, here’s something close to what was being said in it:
“When the Kärpät keeper says that even last year he was very nervous before the matches, it is almost a little hard to believe him. Few radiate such calmness as the 20-year-old from Nykarleby.”
Some other takeaways:
—Blomqvist is in weekly contact with Pittsburgh goalie coach Andy Chiodo and the goalie coach in Wilkes-Barre
—Missed about four weeks from a concussion in October
—Looks like he might be AHL bound for 2023-24:
“If I do well this season, I think I can probably get the chance to go over to the USA and play there next winter.”
—Blomqvist talked about going to play in Wilkes-Barre at the tail end of last season on an amateur tryout. He chose to go to the Pens over playing for the national team in a tournament, and as a result, they passed over selecting him for the U-20 World Cup this summer.
“It is clear that I am disappointed that I lost my place in the U20 World Cup, but I am still satisfied that I took the chance to go over to the USA. You never know if you’ll get a chance like that again and I wanted to show myself off to them [Penguins]. They have done a lot for me too. Both the trip to the AHL team and the trip to Pittsburgh’s [July rookie prospect] camp were turning points in my career. I became even more motivated to one day really take a place there.
—Overall, he sounds like he’s got a grasp of the future and is enjoying getting more experience under his belt for the steps that come next.
I think my skill and understanding of the game is enough for games in the USA, but I may need a little more experience in tough senior and playoff matches. I guess that’s why I’m still here. First you have to succeed here [in Finland], then in the AHL and after that possibly get the chance in the NHL.