PITTSBURGH — It didn’t take long for Pittsburgh Penguins center Derick Brassard to make an impact. Against the Washington Capitals in the Penguins first game of the season, his line with Dominik Simon and Bryan Rust was the most dominant line. Brassard also scored his first goal of the season after the Penguins won a pair of puck battles and Brassard went to the net.
It was a gritty goal for the Penguins third line center, who is known for his playmaking skills and all-around game.
“We got what matters most. It’s what to expect for a first game,” said Brassard. “We stuck with it. We had some good leadership, and we bounced back in the second period.”
Last night, Brassard was on the ice for only seven shot attempts against while the Penguins attempted 20 shots. That’s a 74 percent Corsi rating and a sign of dominance.
Brassard, 31, was a top center and a leader on the New York Rangers team which went to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final and the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. He was also the top center on the Ottawa Senators team which took the Penguins to double-overtime, Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. He is no stranger to leading teams deep in the playoffs.
However, the Penguins are a different story. Brassard is only the third line center behind all-time greats Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And with that role comes less ice time than Brassard is accustomed and different responsibilities.
“I had to adjust to be on this team. It’s not easy when you come to a team which won two Stanley Cups in a row, you have to make your spot on the team and earn your ice time,” Brassard said. “I think we can do something special with this group and I’m all-in for that.”
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan conceded during training camp that Brassard said the adjustment was difficult and asked for more ways to contribute, such as playing left wing. Thursday night, Sullivan utilized Brassard as much as possible.
“He’s a top-two center on most teams in the league. I think he’s getting a fresh start here,” Sullivan said. “He’s taken off, he’s skating really well. He’s in great shape. When we put that line together in the exhibition season, we really liked what we saw.”
Last night, Brassard played over three minutes on the power play and 1:34 shorthanded. The 6-foot-1, 202 pound center from Hull, Quebec was more than the Penguins Swiss Army knife, he was a weapon.
“When you have a chance to win, as a player that’s the only thing you ask for,” Brassard said.
The Penguins always have a chance to win because they have Crosby and Malkin. But the Penguins fortunes are greatly enhanced because they have Brassard, too. And that’s all either side can ask.