The Penguins lost in a shootout tonight in Calgary and the point they gained for doing so brought them into a tie with Washington for first place in the Metropolitan Division (and the entire league).
It had been a while since they occupied that spot. Since after the games of Dec. 28, to be exact. Here are the standings from that date from shrpsports.com.
After that, Columbus got hot, then the Penguins went on their bye, then Washington got hot.
I expect Washington to snap out of its funk at just about any second, but the Penguins are in a race for first place, which is more than you could have said a few weeks ago.
— Mark Streit left the game in the first period. Coach Mike Sullivan said he had a lower-body injury. Later, the team confirmed Streit went to a hospital to get checked out.
When your injury replacements start getting injured, then you know you’ve got a M*A*S*H* unit going on.
The Penguins are now without four of their top eight defensemen (Streit, Letang, Maatta, Daley) and four of their top 10 forwards (Hornqvist, Hagelin, Rust, Cullen).
— The Guentzel-Crosby-Sheary line was terrific tonight. Really drove the bus. Scored two goals. Massive advantages in shot attempts at even strength.
After the Edmonton game, people were starting to get excited about that trio, but I wondered if they might give up too much in the defensive zone. They don’t. All three of them were on the ice for only seven even-strength shot attempts in the entire game. That means they played in the offensive zone incessantly.
— Sheary got his 20th goal of the season in the first period.
For all the offensive stars the Penguins have produced over the years, not very many of them were homegrown wingers. In fact, Sheary is just the 15th homegrown winger to score 20 goals in a season.
Here’s the list: Jaromir Jagr, Kevin Stevens, Rob Brown, Shawn McEachern, Ryan Malone, Bob Errey, Craig Simpson, Phil Bourque, Jean Pronovost, Greg Polis, Mark Recchi, Wayne Bianchin, Blair Chapman, Aleksey Morozov and Sheary.
If you whittle it down to undrafted homegrown wingers, all you’ve got is Pronovost, Bourque and Sheary.
(To preempt any “You forgot about …” situations, I used NHL.com’s position designations. If they said a player was a center when he scored 20, he didn’t make this list.)
— The Kunitz-Malkin-Kessel line was a shot-attempt black hole for the second straight game. I’d still try a Wilson-Kunitz swap before I scrapped the whole line entirely, but a shake-up there is probably in order.
— Rough night for Ron Hainsey. When he was on the ice at even strength, the Flames had an 18-11 advantage in shot attempts. A bad clear by Hainsey led to a Matt Stajan goal and he got blown past by Johnny Gaudreau on a power play for a goal later on.
Hainsey has been a positive shot-attempt guy most of his tenure with the Penguins. In general, he’s been a good fit. I wouldn’t bury him for a bad game tonight, but he had one.
— Is Marc-Andre Fleury the best shootout goalie in NHL history?
This probably would have been a better question to pose after his shootout win in Edmonton rather than his shootout loss in Calgary, but whatever.
If you just rank by save percentage, you get some small-sample size wonders like Rob Zepp.
If you up it to a minimum of 100 career attempts, Fleury moves up to fourth.
If you make it 150 career attempts, he’s the top dog.
— I arrived in Philly early to beat the snow. It’s coming down sideways at the moment, but the forecast seems to be not as bleak as it was a day or two ago. Like, 6-10 inches rather than 12-18. It probably won’t be easy for the Penguins to get in here from Calgary tomorrow, but I don’t think Wednesday’s game is in great danger of being postponed.
Bye for now,