Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. The Pittsburgh Penguins comeback win over the Vancouver Canucks was as thrilling as it was improbable. For the gambling crowd, the Penguins were a 45-1 longshot to win the game at the start of the third period. However, the cardiac kids mounted another multiple-goal comeback, just as they did when down by three goals to Boston on Nov. 4, and down by a pair against the New York Islanders two weeks ago
But this time they finished the job. There was no overtime loss or squandered point. Instead, there were several lessons and examples of things for which Penguins fans can be thankful.
1. Evgeni Malkin’s Pride
At 33-years-old, many players would accept the end is nigh, or at least the end of greatness. Instead, Malkin rededicated himself to his craft after a bad 2018-19 season.
Malkin has been a dominant force since he returned from injury early in November. He is well above a point per game with 19 points (6g, 13a) in only 14 games, but most importantly, Malkin is playing some of the best hockey of his life. He is backchecking, forechecking and cleaning up his own zone. Malkin is also making smarter puck decisions and eliminating the disastrous turnovers at the blueline which haunted him last season.
2. Brandon Tanev Signing
There were no shortage of critics when Penguins GM Jim Rutherford dished a six-year deal to Tanev on July 1. Fortunately for the organization and fans, Tanev has been better than advertised. With 13 points (5g, 8a) in 25 games, he is on pace for career highs. He has made his lines better and injected the Penguins lineup with a giant-sized Red Bull of energy.
Not only does Tanev fit the Penguins lurch towards fast, honest play he has been a leader.
The nickname “Turbo” says it all.
3. Edmonton Couldn’t Sign John Marino
The Pittsburgh Penguins made a seemingly minor deal in August for a former sixth-round pick from Harvard who had just 11 points and was a minus-three in his junior year. John Marino has turned into one of the great surprises of the Penguins season. Since being inserted into the lineup a few games into the season, Marino has become a mainstay.
His ability to move the puck and skate away from danger gave the Penguins three defense pairs with that balance. His work with Jack Johnson solidified the Penguins defense and his work with Brian Dumoulin on the top pair during Kris Letang’s six-game injury absence kept the ship afloat.
Marino has 11 points (2g, 9a) in 23 games and is well on his way to a potential 30-point season.
4. Forward Depth
Remember those trades which seemed imminent? The Penguins needed all hands on deck as they’ve temporarily lost six forwards to injury this season. The Penguins reached into the AHL for Joseph Blandisi, Adam Johnson, and Sam Lafferty.
Remarkably, all of those players earned more ice time and played well.
5. Bryan Rust, Jack Johnson, and Patric Hornqvist Have Been Their Best Versions
Bryan Rust is scoring at a career clip but doing so in sustainable ways. Jack Johnson has been a pillar on the Penguins blue line. And Patric Hornqvist has quelled doubts after his subdued second half last season.
Rust has 17 points and has been an offensive catalyst since he too returned to the lineup in early November.
6. Dominik Kahun
Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford apparently snaked a 40-point forward with good offensive instincts and complete game in exchange for Olli Maatta who would have been a $4 million depth defenseman. After a slow start, Kahun has filled the net. He has 15 points, including seven goals. Kahun also has five points (2g, 3a) in his last five games.
Kahun, Tanev and Rust give the Penguins energy, offensive punch and flexibility for all four lines.
From the PHN Family including Dan Kingerski, Shelly Anderson, our silent partner Joe Steigerwald and contributor Michael Dummer: Happy Thanksgiving!