Patric Hornqvist is never boring. The crazy Viking in the middle of the Penguins locker room agitates opponents with high-energy play on the ice and lifts his team in the room but the 2018-19 season was not one which Hornqvist will remember fondly. He had 15 goals in his first 34 games but just three after he missed time due to a concussion in January.
It was an epic dry spell for Hornqvist who never before failed to reach 20 goals in a full-NHL season.
Hornqvist did not score an even strength goal from Jan. 6 to March 31. In case you’re not good at math, that is a long time. It was a span of 32 games played. Though Hornqvist was playing tenacious, disruptive hockey through March, the goals didn’t come.
Even as Hornqvist created turnovers, scoring chances and inflicted bruises, the goals just didn’t follow.
“No, I’m not (worried). I just didn’t play well. I had that slump there for a long time and it’s hard to get out of those,” Hornqvist said. “It feels like you’re doing the right thing and the puck don’t want to go your way.”
From our friends at NaturalStatTrick.com, Hornqvist had 221 scoring chances in his first 36 games before the concussion and 212 chances in the 33 games after. His high danger chances were also evenly split, 97-94, too.
But the puck definitely didn’t cooperate.
“Then you get frustrated and that’s probably the worst thing you can do,” Hornqvist admitted. “I learned a lot from this season. We didn’t have the result we wanted as a team, and myself, too. I didn’t play as good as I can.”
Overall, Hornqvist finished with 18 goals and 19 assists in 69 games played. His effort to score a goal as the drought wore on was obvious. Even his hit totals spiked. He dished 67 hits in the first 34 games. Then 83 hits in the next 35.
Put the puck just wouldn’t go.
“After the deadline, I think we found our identity. We were playing a little faster, a little harder. We made it hard on the other teams,” he said. “When the playoffs came, we played a better team who shut us down.”
All of the Penguins players expressed disappointment with the final result, and everyone expressed confidence the same group could still win, even as the reality that they won’t get another chance was obvious. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford expressed similar sentiments to Hornqvist.
“We were tracking towards being a good playoff team, and then we ran up against a team that was more determined,” Rutherford said in his press conference with made headlines.
“We know we had a good team in here. We didn’t play as well as we had to in the playoffs,” Horqnvist said.
There probably isn’t much more which can be said about the Penguins disappointment, at least inside the locker room, or about the disappointing seasons of several players.
Of course, we also asked Hornqvist about the near-fight with New York Islanders goalie Robin Lehner in Game 4. Hornqvist could only smile and laugh a little at the absurdity which could only follow him.
“He hit me. I hit him back and it started. It’s obviously hard with a goalie–he got a lot of equipment on…yeah,” Hornqvist smiled.
At 32-years-old, Hornqvist completed the first year of a five-year, $26.5 million contract. He became one of the outspoken leaders in the room early in the season as the Penguins sputtered and General Manager Jim Rutherford threatened changes, even before a 10-game winless streak. Hornqvist is one of the Penguins emotional leaders and with the expected retirement of Matt Cullen, perhaps one of the last.
Speculation about his future mainly comes from the outside. However, next season Hornqvist will need to produce more offense than he did in the second half. The Penguins would not argue with the 15 goals in 34 games pace he set through early January. But for now, Hornqvist has one task.
“Regroup and move on,” he shrugged as he concluded remarks about his season.