With a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins moved into a tie for first in the East division while playing their best hockey of the season
The Penguins looked dead in the water, with a couple of seals lurking on the schedule in early March.
Since a March 4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, the Penguins have simply gone 12-2-1.
- Flyers: 1-0-0, Penguins
- New York Rangers: 2-0-0, Penguins
- Buffalo Sabres: 4-0-0, Penguins
- Bruins: 2-1-0, Penguins
- New Jersey Devils: 1-1-1, … tie
- New York Islanders: 2-0-0, Penguins
After a 4-1 win over the Bruins Thursday night, the Penguins are not only treading water now, they’re soaring over the East division. With 50 points, the Pens are tied for first in the division with the Capitals and Islanders.
For a team on the outside, looking in, as recently as a month ago, the Penguins dramatic revival has come on the heels of crucial injuries. And one by one, those players making their return to the lineup.
Led by All Star trash talker Brandon Tanev, of course.
Secondary scoring is nice, very nice
Zach Aston-Reese, Mike Matheson and Jason Zucker scored for the Penguins against the Bruins — Jake Guentzel did, too, but he’s not exactly secondary scoring.
The ZAR line, featuring recently reinstated Tanev and superstar center Frederick Gaudreau flashed immense potential. Maybe Teddy Blueger isn’t the catalyst for the dynamic third line after all…
Regardless, the Penguins’ defacto third line was absolutely buzzing, with Thursday night’s opening goal coming courtesy of the dynamic trio.
Marcus Pettersson actually started the chance, playing a puck up to Gaudreau, who left the puck — kind of — for Tanev right along the Bruins’ blue line. Tanev picked it up, skated into the Isles’ zone and threaded a perfectly placed pass across the crease for ZAR — who did enough to put it into the goal.
ZAR’s eighth goal of the season, tying his career-high, came courtesy of Tanev, one of the hardest workers on the Pens’ rosters, and Gaudreau, with points in four of his last five games.
Matheson’s goal, the second of the game, was an absolute masterpiece. Anthony Angello passed a puck up to Matheson as he was skating through the Penguins’ defensive zone, and Matheson showcased his speed, puck protection and finishing ability.
Bruins defenseman Jeremy Lauzon served as a pylon, his diving effort ineffective, and teammate Charlie MacAvoy couldn’t get across the ice in time to stop Matheson’s sensational goal. Flying through the neutral zone — Matheson doing his best Bobby Orr impression — with his puck protection in full effect, he avoided Lauzon, moved the puck to the forehand and darted a shot past Bruins goaltender Daniel Vladar.
It was… very, very fitting for Matheson. As he’ll score goal like that or play poor defense.
Not to be left out, the defacto second line jumped in on the scoring, too.
Bruins star forward David Pastrnak turned the puck over in the neutral zone after attempting to play a puck to himself off the boards, and Petterson jumped up, playing a puck to Evan Rodrigues. ERod skated into the disorganized Bruins’ defensive zone, played a puck across the crease to Zucker, and it was 3-0.
The Penguins scored an empty netter to ice the contest, with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel picking up points, but it truly was the secondary scoring that powered the Pens past a quality Bruins’ team.
That is definitely encouraging.
Casey is DeBest in the league
With 30 saves on 31 Bruins’ shots, DeSmith’s ridiculous stats have improved to the tune of a .933 save percentage and a 1.84 goals against average.
Of all NHL goaltenders with double digit games played, DeSmith leads everyone with his save percentage. And only Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer has a high goals against average among goaltenders with double digit games played.
For a player counting $1.25 against the cap and who didn’t see the ice at the NHL level last season, DeSmith is one of the very best bargains in the NHL this season. He’s allowed Tristan Jarry to weather early season struggles and a recent injury.
The Penguins have been very, very lucky with DeSmith.
The Penguins will turn to DeSmith again in the second game of the two game series against the Bruins Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.
What have you thought of the Penguins’ play as of late? Let me know in the comments below!