The Penguins were back in action last night to close out what many, but not all because this fanbase is whacko, would consider a successful month. This time they welcomed the Senators of Ottawa who are still trying to recover from the damage that was Chris Kunitz. No update on the injury front meant the Pens would be using similar lines to start this one:
The second call-up of Sam Lafferty has been less thrilling than the first, Sullivan agrees and Blandisi gets the nod.
I got out of work at 6:15 PM, my trusty Waze app said it would be 45 minutes to get home. By some stroke of luck, the highways parted and I got home 9 minutes before puck drop. As I got out of my car a man asked me for help changing a tire, it was a rainy night and I need a lot of good karma so I figured “why not?” Unfortunately, I couldn’t help him, he was sold a car with special lugs but wasn’t given the proper adjuster. He thanked me for my effort, I looked at my watch and sprinted up the stairs. I turned the tv on to see that I somehow only missed 34 seconds which was incredible except the Penguins only needed 27 seconds to score the first goal of the game.
EVGENI MALKIN (10) Assisted by Guentzel (22) & Johnson (4) @ 0:27
Remember when the Penguins used to take 25+ minutes to get going? Pepperidge farm remembers but these Pens have forgotten, even though that was like last week. Jake Guentzel gets an early assist hours after getting nominated for his first-ever All-Star game appearance.
The Pens continued dominating following the early goal and the Senators looked like anything but an NHL team. Generally when teams are getting outplayed the response is to get chippy, this usually doesn’t happen until the third period but with a roster full of douche canoes things got chippy seven minutes in. Eventually, a scrum broke out and when the dust settled Malkin and substitute teacher Scott Sabourin would sit for matching minors. If you were a 20-year-old living in Ottawa you’d be chippy too. The 4v4 didn’t change anything as the Pens continued dominating the game sans Geno. They couldn’t get another marker on the board during that stretch, but Ottawa generated negative shots.
Following the matching minors the game continued looking the same at 5v5, it was all Pittsburgh baby. After another wasted opportunity in the defensive end, Patric Hornqvist would get a puck to Simon who sent it up the boards to Blandisi. Blandisi would win a battle and send the puck to open space, where Dominik Simon, who sucks, would take the space, lift a stick, and roof a backhander.
DOMINIK SIMON (4) Assisted by Blandisi (3) & Hornqvist (6) @ 11:44
This entire play was made by Simon as he never stopped moving his feet from the second he touched the puck. Bob Errey was going nuts over Blandisi’s pass as he apparently started drinking earlier than usual for this one. Hell of a finish by Simon, who continues to drive offense and was rewarded. This is a pretty impressive backhander by Simon considering he was already stretched out and had limited room.
The rest of the first period was more of the same. At some point Joseph Blandisi got some teeth knocked out and became Jotheth Blandithi. No penalty was called because the refs are not that good. Brady Tkachuk would leave the game at some point in the first after injuring his wrist while checking someone, after a rub and tug he would be back. The horn would eventually sound and the Senators exhaled.
The Penguins would finish the period with 23 scoring chances for to only 9 against, a CF% of 71.88, Yowza.
The thing about the NHL is, with the exception of the Redwings all of these teams belong in the league. The Senators came out trying and immediately rang one off the crossbar in the opening seconds. That one stayed out, but Ottawa kept pushing and the whitest name in the league made it 2-1 when Nick Paul scored 4:21 in.
A rare time when the Penguins looked completely lost in the defensive zone, they lose track of Paul sneaking in and it’s in the goal before anyone could react. After having the lead cut in half there were two options, and the Penguins chose wisely. They got back to work and dominated the next two shifts. The game again looked like a Pittsburgh powerplay at 5v5, and just over 90 seconds after the Ottawa goal it was the Vodka chugging, momma’s food-loving, Geno Machino adding another notch to the belt.
EVGENI MALKIN (11) Assisted by Rust (15) & Guentzel (23) @ 6:02
Leaving a 400 goal scoring future hall-of-famer this wide open is probably not a good idea. Rust with a great heads up play, though Ottawa made it as easy as possible on him. Guentzel picks up his 199th career point with the assist.
The goal took the wind out of the Senators as the Pens continued dominating. Despite carrying the offensive chances they couldn’t get that three-goal cushion. After six minutes of Penguin possession, Jotheth Blandithi was called for something, sending the Senators powerplay to the ice. Brandon Tanev had an early shorthanded chance on the kill, his shot was blocked and he was boarded into 2020 but no call was made. To be fair,
keeping the Senators 11% powerplay on the ice is just as advantageous to the Penguins as making it 4v4. As expected the Ottawa powerplay was not good and we returned to 5v5 hockey.
A few seconds after returning to even strength Ruhwedel couldn’t control a puck along the boards resulting in a 2 on 1 between Connor Brown and Nick Paul. The Senators are full of a bunch of names you are likely to see sipping white mochaccino in a prep school. Anyway, Jusso Riikola went all in to block the pass so Brown fired a shot low off the pads of Jarry and Paul knocked home the rebound to make it 3-2.
As we saw after Dick Poles first goal of the game, the Penguins responded by pushing the gas down again. This time it was John Marino dancing through the offensive zone like a politician dodging questions. He then put a shot on net that bounced around like the neighborhood slut before landing at the feet of Hornqvist, and a man named Horny knows what to do with a bouncing slut.
PATRIC HÖRNQVIST (7) Assisted by Marino (14) & McCann (13) @ 16:51
53 seconds after the Senators made it a one-goal game the Penguins answered. John Marino with the casual drop between the legs, spin-o-rama move deep in the offensive zone that you are used to seeing rookie defenders make. My birthday is next week and I am currently accepting Marino jerseys please and thanks.
The remainder of the period played out scoreless despite an onslaught of chances in the final 10 seconds by the Pens.
The Senators responded a little more than the Penguins expected, after giving up 23 scoring chances against to 9 for in the first the Sens reversed the script putting up 23 scoring chances for to just 10 against.
The third period was all about holding the lead. The Penguins decided it would be best to defend their lead by playing flat out offense. The Pens carried the offensive play in the first five minutes, and six minutes in it was the first line breaking in on an odd-man rush. Rust sent a pass across the zone to Malkin in front, Geno makes a drop pass from just outside of the paint across the crease to Guentzel, and he gave it a shake and a bake
JAKE GUENTZEL (20) Assisted by Malkin (27) & Rust (16) @ 6:55
Malkin with a hell of a pass here to pick up his third point of the night, putting him on pace for a casual 100 point season despite missing 13 games. Guentzel hits the 20 goal mark for the third straight season (he had 16 in his 40-game abbreviated rookie season). The crowd went silent however after Guentzel left the rink following a nasty collision after the goal. Guentzel tripped over a loosely hanging stick and had no time to protect himself. His 200th career point, but all eyes are on Sullivan and the injury report.
Despite the three-goal lead, the crowd was basically eliminated with the focus turning on Guentzel. After five or so minutes of 5v5 Bryan Rust was called for something and the Pens went back to the penalty kill. When Steve Mears talks badly about the refs you know its not a good sight, though I’m sure Mear’s mom was upset and gave him an earful afterward. On the radio side, Mike Lange was also having a fit. At some point when great hockey minds are this upset, it may be a problem. Much like their first powerplay the best chance during the Ottawa advantage came for the Penguins shorthanded but McCann couldn’t get it done. We went back to 5v5 with four minutes left in regulation. The Penguins didn’t really let off the gas the final four minutes and like most Senators, Ottawa remained without answers. There was a time when the Penguins would’ve played this game with no effort. There was a time when the Penguins would’ve lost this game 5-1. There was a time when the Senators were one goal away from the Stanley Cup Finals. Times, they are a changing, and the Penguins are a cruising. With less than 20 seconds to go the Senators scrummed it up a bit, which would be cute if they were relevant. Time expired and the Pens closed out December 10-2-0. As time expired the Senators attacked Malkin, who responded with a high stick to Chabot. Considering his suspension less than a year ago for a similar move Geno most likely gets 2-games, but it’s the NHL so he is also likely to get rewarded a cash prize.
- After the game Boriowiecki had the quote you want to hear from an opposing player per Wes Crosby (@otherNHLCrosby): “As objectively as I can look at it, probably the best coached team in the NHL. … They put pucks behind D. Their gaps are great. They just look really responsible. They kind of wear you down and you have breakdowns, and it turns into these fancy Grade-As.”
- There isn’t much to say at this point. The guys on NHLN said it best, this Penguins team is playing the right way. You know it is a systemic thing because regardless of the injuries they continue chugging along.
- With a likely Guentzel injury and Malkin suspension, the Penguins will begin the next decade with a Galchenyuk-McCann-Rust first line
- The Pens are off until January 2nd when they host the San Jose Sharks
- Have a safe New Years party if that’s your vibe, don’t drink and drive, you can’t read this blog if you’re shelling out $10,000 for a DUI