Daniel Winnik Makes Good First Impression


Daniel Winnik made his debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in front of a hometown crowd that had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of an impact player to provide forward depth. Winnik did not disappoint as he registered an assist, a plus 1 rating, and earned the Third Star of the game — a good first impression to say the least. 

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What was most impressive about Winnik’s play was how multidimensional his impact was.  At first blush, Winnik played a good game on an individual level.  He played a physical game, saw the ice well, and worked well with his third-line teammates Brandon Sutter and Steve Downie.  In fact, Winnik’s assist came on a goal that involved all of the Penguins’ third-liners, with Downie notching his 11th goal of the year and Winnik and Sutter getting the first and second assists respectively.  But Winnik’s good impression goes beyond his individual effort and instant linemate chemistry.

Daniel Winnik’s addition to the lineup made his teammates elevate their game, especially the bottom six forwards.  Whether it was a one-off instance or a lasting effect is still to be seen, but what can be sure is that the Penguins’ depth players had a solid game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.  The third-line of Winnik, Sutter, and Downie acted as if they had been playing together for months, finding each other with their passes and creating space.  Despite Coach Johnston‘s penchant for mixing up the lines, it would not be surprising to see these three play together in the future.

Feb 6, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins center Nick Spaling (13) during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth line of Nick Spaling, Maxime Lapierre, and Beau Bennett also looked strong.  Lapierre had a particularly good game on the forecheck, taking good angles, using his body, and allowing the other forwards to help create pressure. Bennett looked like he had benefited from the extra work Rick Tocchet put in to improve Bennett’s board play.  Spaling continued to play his consistent brand of hockey that provides stability regardless of where he is slotted in the lineup.

A true evaluation of Winnik’s play can’t be done until he has played several more games in a Penguins uniform.  But first impressions do have value, and his was a good one.