PITTSBURGH — Do not assume Pittsburgh Penguins center Derick Brassard is down on his luck. Three points, just one goal in nine playoff games for a player acquired at the trade deadline isn’t good enough, though Brassard is not yet gripping his stick too tightly. Not yet, anyway.
“The series against (Philadelphia) we had some looks. In Game 6, we had some Grade A’s in the first period. The puck wouldn’t go in,” said Brassard. “Now, four games in, that’s where we are at.”
That is where Brassard and the Penguins are. They trail the Washington Capitals 2-1. The Penguins top line, Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist have scored all but one of the Penguins seven goals. Defenseman Kris Letang scored the other.
Brassard didn’t deny everyone is under more pressure but did deflect that he is specifically under additional scrutiny.
“There are some times the puck goes in. And, sometimes you wonder as a player, or as a line, what you have to do to score goals,” he said.
Brassard had four goals and 11 points during Ottawa’s magical playoff run last season, which concluded with the double-overtime loss to the Penguins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. Before this season, Brassard scored 55 points (22g, 33a) in 78 career playoff games.
“You want to play well for the team. If you can chip in offensively, or whatever (your role is), it’s going to help the team,” he said. “It’s just a matter of maybe getting a lucky bounce, or be at the right time or right place. I’m going to try to do that tonight.”
Brassard has visibly created some chemistry with linemate Conor Sheary. Much less so with frequent sidesaddle Phil Kessel. Another potential linemate Zach Aston-Reese will likely not play again until next season after Tom Wilson’s predatory hit in Game 3.
Regarding the “Wilson situation” Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked Brassard if its conclusion would allow the Penguins greater focus on the actual hockey game, instead of the sideshow circus. Brassard’s answer was credible.
“When the game ends, you have to move on as a player, as a team. You have to have a short memory in the playoffs,” he said. “Win or lose, you’re going home, and the next day you have to focus on what you have to do.”
It is Game 4. The Penguins trail. They have given up more odd-man rushes than a game of shinny on the pond. Perhaps the Wilson situation focused them.
We’re about to find out. Brassard at least feels like he is a bounce away. We’ll see.
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