The Pittsburgh Penguins not only beat the Detroit Red Wings, Saturday, they also began to slay the malaise which has gripped the team since the beginning of the season. Carl Hagelin said guys are bringing “more energy every day”. Goaltender Tristan Jarry said, “you can feel the excitement around the room.”
The Penguins have won three in a row. They’ve scored goals. Their power play looks unstoppable, and maybe it should with four of the brightest offensive talents in the NHL. More importantly, the Penguins are skating. They’re skating with purpose an determination. And, for the first time this season, they appear to be a team which expects to win, not a team which wonders if they can.
The Penguins stars are shining brightly.
Pens have won 4 of 5. In that span, Crosby is 2-8-10, Malkin 5-5-10 and Kessel 3-5-8.
— Bob Grove (@bobgrove91) January 13, 2018
#1 Malkin’s Finish
The goal is simple. The Penguins outworked and outhustled the Red Wings. With a partial smile, Carl Hagelin told Pittsburgh Hockey Now, he heard Malkin call for the puck in front and it was a pass, not a shot. You decide:
Leading up to the goal, the Penguins dominated the puck. Momentum creates chances. When they wind up on the stick of a player like Evgeni Malkin…the Penguins will benefit.
#2 Abdelkader’s Backhand
Ordinarily, this would be on the goaltender. However, a couple factors absolve Tristan Jarry on the Red Wings goal. Tomas Tartar’s shot caught Jarry on the mask. That uncontrollable rebound put the puck in a dangerous spot, for the Penguins. And, Jarry’s momentary reaction forced him to scramble for the resulting save.
The play fell on Matt Hunwick. Hunwick shoved Justin Abdelkader, but did not take the body or the stick. It was a soft play by Hunwick. The Penguins need more.
#3 Kessel PPG
Even the whiteboard giggled at the precision of this play. Notice the spacing and the intent of each player. There was no doubt, as this play developed, Sidney Crosby was going to hit Phil Kessel with a cross-ice pass. As soon as Kessel dished the puck at center ice, he made a beeline for the net.
Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericksson was in the path of the storm. He should have stepped to take Kessel, but how many defensemen will leave the slot when Sidney Crosby has the puck, with space on the wing?
The play developed so quickly, Ericksson didn’t realize he was the sacrificial lamb. Watch Crosby’s head–he knew where the play was going to be, from the beginning. Just a stunning power-play goal:
#4 Malkin, Part Deaux
All or nothing. This was the backbreaker, but it could have been Detroit’s equalizer. Watch the video a couple times. Malkin was the trailer, and Matt Hunwick provided the center drive. Hunwick’s drive forced Tomas Tatar deeper, which opened the space for Malkin.
However, no Penguin covered Hunwick’s backside. Anthony Mantha was looking for an odd-man break–it would have been a 3-on-1 break for the Red Wings. If Mantha deflected Kessel’s pass, the shot was blocked, or simply if Kessel didn’t provide the perfect pass, the Red Wings were ready to go the other way with numbers.
Hornqvist provided the goalie screen, but it may have been his job to cover Hunwick’s rush.
A nearly identical play unfolded in the first period, led by Hunwick, and it became a 3-on-1 for the Wings.
#5 Crosby’s Insane PPG
Life isn’t fair. Some people are smarter, faster, stronger. Crosby is all three. Watch him pick Frans Nielsen’s stick, then complete the motion with the shot. Absolutely sick goal. There isn’t a film breakdown necessary. Wings were in position. That was all Crosby: