Today there are a dozen “Jeff Carter” stories across a half dozen Pittsburgh Penguins media outlets. Most will be friendly because Carter played well enough to earn praise for succeeding in a tough situation. The Penguins lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Philadelphia Flyers, but the Penguins mood didn’t seem to be too stressed over yielding an extra point.
PHN will join the chorus of Carter reviews, but we’ll add a little video, too.
In fact, Carter’s grin was infectious. He flashed his trademark smile, which is missing a few front teeth, as he laughed about the Penguins assistant equipment manager Jon Taglianetti getting the helper on Sidney Crosby’s goal.
Carter may have the most old-school hockey smile in Pittsburgh since Gary Rissling starred in Paul Steigherwald’s afternoon ticket promos during Scooby-Doo and Spiderman (back in the day, we didn’t have channels dedicated to every whim. We also had two dials on the TV, one for the high numbered UHF channels).
The 6-foot-3 Carter’s final stat line wasn’t jaw-dropping. He had two shots on goal. Two misses. One blocked shot and one takeaway. Carter was also 9-of-13 (69%) on the faceoff dot.
But Carter had a few good chances, too. Early in the game, he had a takeaway and a wraparound attempt, which was set up by his dump-in and his puck pursuit made him first on the puck.
This clip is just a few minutes into the game. Carter played goal line to goal line for a scoring chance. You can also see Carter hesitating and thinking about his station, but the simple backhand shovel and pursuit had to make Mike Sullivan smile.
“I thought he had a pretty good game for us. You can see how he’s going to help us become a better hockey team,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think the more familiar he gets with how we’re trying to play, and I think it’s just going to help him even more moving forward.”
Carter hasn’t played center this season. LA Kings head coach Todd McClellan moved him to the right wing beside Blake Lizotte, and Carter parked there this season.
Some parts of playing center are like riding a bike; they come naturally and return immediately. However, playing center for the Pittsburgh Penguins is sometimes like reading an Ikea instruction manual. It seems straightforward until you have to do it, and options have options.
“I think I started to grasp it a little bit more as the game went on,” Carter said. “Definitely going to just sit down (Friday) and in the next couple of days, watch some stuff with the coaches, my linemates and figure it out a little bit more.”
Perhaps PHN was wrong to think the 36-year-old Carter had lost a step because he was moved to the wing. Definitely wrong. Carter showed swift acceleration as he walked Philadelphia defenseman Justin Braun, just as Sidney Crosby did in the first period. You’ll know Carter in this video–He’s the lanky player who accelerates through the neutral zone with the puck.
“I think his skating ability really stands out. He’s got real good hands. He can still shoot the puck extremely well,” Sullivan said. “It generated a number of scoring chances. And I thought he did pretty well on the face off circle, especially given the fact that he hasn’t taken a whole lot of draws this year.”
And Carter drew eyeballs as he led the Penguins rushes in the second and third periods. Watch the big No. 77 get up the ice in a flash to be wide open for a Grade A chance.
That was a nice center drive by Jared McCann, as well. Cody Ceci joined the party, too.
“I think in the first period, I felt like I was standing still, thinking about systems and stuff like that, and trying to figure out where I’m supposed to go,” Carter said. “In the second period, I just started to play hockey and use my speed. That’s when we started creating some chances as a line. From there on, I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping things going north and attacking the net.”
Understandably, some worried Carter might be the next Patrick Marleau, the 40-year-old forward who the Penguins acquired at the 2020 NHL trade deadline from the San Jose Sharks but was mostly ineffective.
Carter and his newly formed line is a work in progress. But this time it appears the work will pay dividends for the Pittsburgh Penguins.