-We've made a last minute decision to do a live blog. Our apologies for the lack of proper planning.
-Daniel Winnik will make his debut with the Penguins today. According to a few people around the NHL who are familiar with him, he has been described as an alpha personality. We're not sure if he'll exhibit those traits with a team like the Penguins or if management even did its homework in seeking out a personality like that but it's interesting to see this team acquire a player with those off-ice qualities.
-David Perron is something of a an alpha personality too. He's not giving rah-rah speeches and kicking over garbage cans in the dressing room as far as we know, but he's not shy about speaking his mind and being honest.
-We're not sure the last time the Penguins added players like this in this regard. Some of the other players they've added under this regime such as Nick Spaling, Patric Hornqvist and Steve Downie don't seem to have personalities like this. But it's curious to see people - not players - like this added to the roster.
-Winnik will be the first Penguins player to wear No. 26 since Mark Arcobello all the way back in February of 2015.
-Based on yesterday's practice, one assumes Winnik will play the left wing with Brandon Sutter at center and Steve Downie on the right wing. Additionally, we would expect to see Nick Spaling at left wing on the fourth line along with Maxim Lapierre at center and Craig Adams at right wing.
-The Craig Adams Obsession Society might be grumpy over the prospect of seeing him in the lineup over the likes of Beau Bennett but this is about role and not skill. Of course Bennett is a much more talented player than Adams. There's a reason Bennett was first-round pick and Adams was a ninth-round pick. At the same time, this is a fourth-line role we're talking about. Additionally, Adams kills penalties while Bennett isn't one of the team's regular special teams players.
-Are there better fourth-liners in the NHL than Craig Adams. Absolutely. We would be willing to bet there are 29 other fourth-line right wingers who are better than Adams. But Beau Bennett isn't one of them. He's not a fourth-liner. Using him in that role wouldn't do him or the team any good.
-You wouldn't hire Pablo Picasso to paint your garage door.
-The Penguins' aren't ready to give up on Bennett. They realize he has a pretty slick skillset. It's just a matter of finding a way to get him to realize it. He's a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason and unless something changes in the next 24 hours with regards to the trade deadline, he'll be a part of this team's plans heading into the offseason.
-Who knows, Bennett could be in the lineup and Adams sits today. But there was little indication of that yesterday.
-The Blue Jackets limp into this game with a ton of players missing due to injuries. Brandon Dubinsky, who really sparked their win here Feb. 19, is out indefinitely due to a concussion. Kevin Connauton, a serviceable defenseman who has eaten a lot of minutes with so of their regular defenseman injured, is now injured himself. They lead the NHL with a whopping 392 man games lost.
-In contrast, the Canadiens, who have the most points in the Eastern Conference with 87, have the fewest man games lost with 66.
-Injuries aren't an excuse. They are a reason.
-Some pregame sights. The ice:
-Fans entering the barn:
-Martin Straka has a fan here:
-There aren't many Blue Jackets fans here. Rick Nash:
-It's a good day for double-digit Penguins defensemen. Zarley Zalapski:
-Jersey of the Night: Man... Ron Duguay:
-The Craig Adams Obsession Society can rejoice! Their anti-hero is a scratch!
-The team's lines in warmups were:
David Perron - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Chris Kunitz - Evgeni Malkin - Blake Comeau
Daniel Winnik - Brandon Sutter - Steve Downie
Nick Spaling - Maxim Lapierre - Beau Bennett
-Additionally, Christian Ehrhoff is a scratch. Their pairs are:
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Derrick Pouliot - Robert Bortuzzo
Rob Scuderi - Simon Despres
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, David Perron, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Craig Adams and Christian Ehrhoff.
-The Blue Jackets' starters are Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno, Ryan Johansen, Jack Johnson, David Savard and Curtis McElhinney.
-Their scratches are Kevin Connauton, Brandon Dubinsky and Jordan Leopold.
-Jeff Jimerson handles he anthem:
19:48: A wrister by Folgino is denied by Fleury.
19:40: Crosby tries to lug a puck through the neutral zone and he is flattened on a big shoulder check by Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen. Oof. Crosby hops up with no apparent issue.
18:41: A wrister by Artem Anisimov is blocked by Despres.
17:41: Crosby races up the left wing, gets a step on Savard and whips a low wrister on net. McEhlinney smothers it as Hornqvist hacks at the rebound.
15:42: Off something of a botched give-and-go play off the left wing, Malkin snaps off a wrister from the left circle. McElhinney fights it off.
14:38: HUGE save. After Martin pinches in in the neutral zone and misses a poke check, JOhansen lugs the puck up the left wing on a two-on-one against Letang. He feeds a pass to Atkinson racing in off the left wing. Atkinson taps it on net. Fleury is able to stretch to his right and fight off the puck with his stick. The puck deflects out of play. WOW! Martin owes Fleury a beer.
13:26: Has a wrister in the left circle deflected out of play. New acquisition David Clarkson tries to start something with Malkin with a slight shove from behind. Malkin responds and an official steps in to break it up.
12:17: A wrister by Sutter is blocked by Hartnell.
10:52: Off some tic-tac-toe passing with Kunitz and Malkin, Comeau gets a step on Atkinson in the left circle and one-touches a backhander on net. McElhinney fights it off. What a display of skill by the Penguins. A big save by McElhinney.
10:18: After Crosby fumbles a puck in the right circle, Perron snap off a wrister which McElhinney fights off.
9:42: Spaling and Lapierre combine to give Fedor Tyutin a thump in the Blue Jacket's left wing corner.
9:35: Despres hits Corey Tropp on the left wing wall of the Penguins' zone and steals the puck. Tropp heads to the bench in some discomfort.
7:54: Crosby whacks a slapper from above the left circle. James Wisniewski blocks it and tumbles to the ice. Oof. As play moves towards the Penguins' zone, Wisniewski struggles to get to his feet and limps towards the bench .He retreats to the dressing room with assistance.
7:22: Scuderi pounds a slapper from the right point. McElhinney kicks it out.
6:50: On a a two-on-one with Lapierre against Johnson, Comeau pushes the puck up the left wing. He elects to shoot and rips a wrister well wide on the near side.
6:32: Despres sails a one-timer from the right point. McElhinney punches it away.
5:08: Letang pounds a slapper from center point. Despite a forest of bodies in front of him, McElhinney eats it up.
4:55: Johansen tries to jam in a forehand wraparound. Fleury pokes it away.
4:47: Malkin flings a backhanded pass to the slot for a streaking Kunitz. Atkinson races on a backcheck to break it up. Great play.
3:17: Despres crunches Johansen with a hit from behind on the right half wall of the Penguins' zone. Johansen slumps to the ice in discomfort. Foligno jumps Despres and they drop the gloves. It's not much of a fight as Despres sort of trips. Desprse gets a boarding minor while Foligno is called for roughing. The Penguins and Despres are lucky they only got two minutes. Johansen appears fine. Play will be four on four for two minutes. After the penalties are sorted out, Hartnell appeared to interject himself into a meeting at the Penguins' bench. He received more than a few sour glares afterwards.
3:08: Things get worse for the Penguins as Martin trips up Atkinson on the left half wall of the Penguins' zone. The Blue Jackets will have a four on three power play for 1:41: Sutter, Letang and Scuderi take the ice.
2:27: The Blue Jackets don't take long to cash in. Johansen circles the offensive zone and pull upa t the high slot. He fakes a shot then deals a pass to Wisniewski wide open in the left circle. Wisniew uncorks a cannon of a one-timer which blows by Fleury's blocker on the short-side. What a simple but effective play. Johansen and Johnson get assists. Blue Jackets 1-0.
1:14: Off a feed by Malkin, Kunitz rips a wrister which is blocked by Tyutin.
1:06: Malkin simply decides to score a goal. He circles the offensive zone with the puck on his backhand and fends off a gaggle of Blue Jackets the entire time. He avoids Foligno in the left circle and whips a backhander toward the cage. McElhinney makes the save at first but allows the puck to squeak through into the cage. What a dazzling display by Malkin. Kunitz and Malkin got assists. Blue Jackets 1, Penguins 1.
0:00: End of period. Blue Jackets 1, Penguins 1.
-We were busy trying to transcribe some quotes during the intermission so no intermission notes. Just a few stats.
-In his first period with the Penguins, Winnik has 4:43 of ice time on seven shifts and is 1 for 1 in faceoffs.
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 11-10.
-The Blue Jackets lead in shots attempts, 22-19.
-Wisniewksi leads the game with three shots.
-Scuderi, Comeau and Malkin each led the Penguins with two shots.
-Johnson leads the game with 9:01 of ice time.
-Letang leads the Penguins with 8:19 of ice time.
-The Blue Jackets have a 15-13 lead in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Johansen is 6 for 9 (67 percent).
-Crosby is 6 for 10 (60 percent).
-Bortuzzo and Letang the game with two blocked shots.
19:02: Taking a pass at the Columbus blue line, Hornqvist hustles in on net, gets past Johnson and attacks. He lifts a wrister which McElhinney snags with a nice glove save.
18:42: More robbery. Crosby chips a puck from the neutral zone into the offensive zone. He splits Wisniewski and Tyutin and creates his own breakaway. He tries to seep a backhander under a poke check from McElhinney. McElhinney manages to get a piece of the puck and it slides to a stop in the crease. Wisniewksi tries to clear it but ends up utting the puck out of play. That's a delay of game minor. McElhinney is out of his mind right now. Malkin, Crosby, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Letang take the ice.
18:23: Letang golfs a slapper form the right point. McElhinney eats it up.
17:36: The hole gets deep for the Blue Jackets. Crosby is clipped in the face with the stick of Tyutin at the Columbus blue line. That's two minutes. The Penguins will have a five-on-three for 52 seconds. Malkin, Crosby, Letang, Kunitz and Perron take the ice.
17:36: The Penguins cash in immediately with a little luck. Malkin takes a feed at the left point and deals it to Perron to the right of the cage. Perron tries to force a cross-ice pass to Crosby but ends up banking the puck off the right hand of Johnson and deflects behind McElhinney. What rotten luck for Johnson. Perron almost looked ashamed of scoring that goal. Malkin and Letang get assists. Penguins 2-1.
16:44: Pouliot rips a wrister from the right circle. McElhinney fights it off.
15:56: Pouliot strokes a slapper from the right point. McElhinney eats it up despite heavy traffic.
15:40: The Penguins cash in again. Off a cross-ice pass by Crosby, Letang take a puck deep on the left wing and taps a little backhanded pass to Malkin in the left circle. Malkin rips a wrister through a screen by Hornqvist and by the right skate of McElhinney on the far side. That was pretty. Letang and Crosby get assists. Penguins 3-1.
15:12: The Penguins take a penalty as Despres tackles Johansen in front of the crease. That's two minutes for interference. Winnik, Letang, Sutter and Scuderi take the ice.
14:26: Letang tries to rag the puck in the neutral zone in order to eat up clock but loses it to Foligno. Foligno walks in and rips a wrister from the right circle which Martin deflects out of play.
14:09: Johansen pounds a slapper from the right point. Bortuzo blocks it.
13:12: The Despres minor is killed. The Blue Jackets offered little threat there.
12:28: Kuntiz chases down a puck on the left wing half wall and whips it on net. McElhinney eats it up.
11:34: Savard chucks a wrister from the right point. Fleury makes the save then denies Atkinson and Marko Dano on the rebounds. Dano appeared to shoot wide.
10:56: Another delay of game penalty. Alexander Wenneberg flipped a puck out of play from his own zone. Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz, Hornqvist and Letang take the ice.
10:47: Crosby chops a shot from the left circle. The puck deflects out of play.
8:56: The Wenneberg minor is killed with little threat from the Penguins.
8:38: Wenneberg whacks a re-direction from the slot. Fleury punches it away with easy.
7:38: Prout chucks a wrister form the left half wall on net. Fleury fights it off.
7:09: Off a drop pass by Hornqvist, Sutter races in on net and rips a wrister which McElhinney denies.
6:11: Settling a puck in the left circle, Hornqvist whips a wrister which deflects out of play.
5:38: The Blue Jackets nearly give up an ugly goal. Tyutin controls the puck behind his net and leaves a drop pass for Wisniewski as Bennett forechecks. Wisniewski fumbles the puck a bit as Lapierre tries to jam it in by the right post. McElhinney holds it out.
3:10: Another penalty. Jared Boll tries to control the puck on his left half wall. Sutter crashes in and hip checks him. Boll Tumbles and covers the pucks with his hand. That's a minor penalty. After a television time out. Crosby, Malkin, Hornqvist, Pouliot and Letang take the ice.
2:53: The power play is on fire. Crosby snaps off a wrister from the left circle. Hornqvist is above the crease to the right of the net. He directs the puck on net through his legs. McElhinney fights it off but allows a rebound to his left . Pouliot sneaks down low to the right circle and cleans up the garbage with a forehand shot. Hornqvist and Crosby get assists. This is getting ugly. Penguins 4-1.
2:12: Bennett snaps off a wrister from the right wing. McElhinney fights it off.
0:41: Downie tries to rip a wrister from the left circle but is run over on a clean shoulder check by Boll. Oof.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Blue Jackets 1.
-The Penguins' power play all of a sudden looks dangerous. It took over that period and carved up the Blue Jackets zone.
-For whatever reason, the Penguins are having more luck with connecting on passes in the offensive zone with the power play. We're not sure if it's more a matter of the Blue Jackets not defending it well or the Penguins excelling, but the passes are connecting.
-Malkin must have had a good breakfast today. He's flying. He just looks dominant.
-McElhinney is playing a pretty good game actually. He's just getting bombarded.
-The Penguins control shots, 27-16.
-The Penguins have a 41-32 lead in attempted shots.
-Pouliot, Malkin and Hornqvist each lead the game with four shots.
-Johansen, Wisniewski and Dano each lead the game with three shots.
-The Blue Jackets lead the game in faceoffs, 28-24 (54 percent).
-Johansen is 12 for 18 (67 percent).
-Crosby is 12 for 20 (60 percent).
-Savard leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Martin, Despres and Letang each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:42: The rout is on. Sutter controls apuck behind the Columbus net and backhands it to Winnik along the end boards. Winnik then deals a forehand pass to Downie in the high slot. Downie rips a wrister by the blocker of McElhinney on the far side. What a shot. Winnik and Sutter each get assists. It's Winnik's first point with the Penguins. Penguins 5-1.
19:19: A wrister by Hornqvist in tight deflects off the cross bar and out of play.
19:08: Fighting for a puck in the slot, Kunitz high sticks Wenneberg. That's a minor penalty. Lapierre, Winnik, Scudeir and Letang take the ice.
18:43: Johansen shoulders Winnik to the ice inear the Columbus blue line away from the puck. Winniks spins to the ice in a daze. Lapierre challenges Johansen. No penalties. Just awful.
18:27: Johnson snaps off a wrister from the right point wide on the near side.
18:03: Anisimov chops a slapper from the left wing. Letang drops to his knees and blocks it.
17:50: A wrister by Anisimov from above the left circle is Eaten up by Fleury.
17:08: The Kunitz minor expires. The Blue Jackets offered minimal threat.
16:35: Malkin fends off a check from Mark Letestu, spins and shuffles a forehand shot from the right of the net. McELhinney kicks it out.
14:32: After Wenneberg appears to get away with a trip against Lapierre, tries to shield a puck in the Blue Jackets' left corner and is cross check to the ice by Johnson. Lapierre challenges Johnson but nothing comes of it. Johnson gets a cross checking minor. Crosby, Malkin, Hornqvist, Letang and Pouliot take the ice.
14:23: Not so fast. After Crosby wins an offensive zone faceoff, Letang fumbles the puck in the slot and loses it to Johansen. Johnson gets behind Letang and Pouliot and attacks the net. Fleury makes a less than impressive attempt at a poke check and Johansen roofs it. What a burst by Johansen. The goal is unassisted. Penguins 5-2.
11:47: Taking a feed in the right circle, Atkinson rips a wrister from the left circle. Fleury snags it with a glove hand.
11:09: Despres rips a wrister from the right point. McElhinney snags it.
9:40: Letang forces an ugly pass in the defensive zone. Atkinson steals it and rips a wrister which Fleury kicks out. Letang owes Fleury a beer.
8:29: Despres fights for a puck in the left wing corner and is hit from behind by Tropp. Despres falls to the ice and appears to have a cut on his nose. Play is halted. Tropp gets a major for boarding. Despres heads to the dressing room. Malkin, Hornqvist, Crosby, Pouliot and Martin take the ice. Root Sports showed a video of Downie and Boll exchanging words from the benches. Boll will serve the major.
7:48: Crosby tries to jam in a loose puck in the crease. McElhinney eats it up.
5:14: A wrister by Letang from the left circle is off the mark.
4:21: Off an offensive zone faceoff win, Letang rips a wrister from center point off the cross bark.
3:29: The major penalty expires. The Penguins pretty much played it safe for that five minutes.
1:02: Off a feed by Perron, Bortuzzo golfs a slapper from the right point wide of the cage.
0:53: The Blue Jackets score again. Taking a feed at the blue line, Foligno uses Bortuzzo as a screen and snaps off a wrister which glances off Fleury's glove and deflects into the net. That should have been a save. Hartnell gets the only assist. Penguins 5-3.
0:20: McElhinney is pulled for an extra attacker.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 5, Blue Jackets 3.
-First things first, Christian Ehrhoff was scratched in order to give him further time to recover from his head injury. Johnston said:
“He played in Washington [Wednesday] and we decided with our schedule, we'd give him a few more days,” Johnston said. “We were going to give him some extra time and it gives him a few extra days before we head out on a road swing and it gave us a chance with the schedule to give him another day.”
-Johnston said Ehrhoff did not experience a relapse in the concussion-like symptoms which sidelined him. Ehrhoff returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing 12 games due to the injury and logged 18:34 of ice time on 23 shifts.
-Ehrhoff did not speak with media after the game. We talked to Ehrhoff yesterday and little he said indicated he was still ailing:
On the game Wednesday:
“You kind of get thrown into cold water. It was kind of like a playoff game. The intensity was pretty high. But I skated pretty hard before with [strength and conditioning coach] Mike Kadar. I felt like I was prepared. Good to come back for that game."
On the two high hits Capitals forward Tom Wilson threw at him Wednesday in the second period.:
“Obviously, I didn't like the first hit because he went with the elbow high. I don't mind if there's good clean hits but you're going to get those every once in a while and that's just part of the game.
On his conditioning:
“I think it's probably going to be a little work in progress getting back to a full routine. I guess the ice time always works itself out. But it's nothing I'm worried about.”
-Robert Bortuzzo replaced him in the lineup.
-Simon Despres did not play in the final 8:29 of regulation after he was boarded by Corey Tropp. Johnston was not asked for an update on his status after the game.
-It wasn't perfect. It got a little sloppy at the end. But that looked like the October Penguins. Remember those guys? The ones who were ripping up opposing defenses. The ones who had a scary power play which was clicking at over 40 percent? Four month ago, those Penguins looked dangerous. Tonight, these Penguins looked dangerous.
-Not to be a killjoys, but the Penguins beat up a damaged and tired Blue Jackets team. After tonight, the Blue Jackets have lost 399 man game to injury. In this game alone, the Blue Jackets were without Matt Calvert (concussion), Kevin Connauton ("lower body") Brandon Dubinsky (concussion), Boone Jenner (stress fracture in back), Jeremy Morin ("upper body"), Ryan Murray (high ankle sprain) and Jack Skille (shoulder). Additionally, Sergei Bobrovsky was relegated to backup duty due to a groin injury. AND, the Blue Jackets played yesterday.
-The Penguins should have torched this team.
-Daniel Winnik looked solid in his debut. He was engaged physically and seemed comfortable on the fourth line with Brandon Sutter as well as Steve Downie. Sutter and Winnik had some strong work down low to set up Downie for a goal from the slot.
-Winnik had 13:29 of ice time on 21 shifts, one assist and was one for one in faceoffs. He also logged 2:23 of short-handed ice time.
-The power-play was ultra-dangerous tonight. Again, maybe the Blue Jackets weren't a tough challenge but the Penguins ripped up Columbus' penalty kill and went 3 for 6. Wow. It was the third time this season they netted three power-play goals in a game. The other two came against bad teams - the Devils and Sabres - in the first month of the season before injuries started to take their toll on the lineup.
-Again, we're not sure if it was a matter of the Blue Jackets just being bad or the Penguins' being that good but the Penguins just moved the puck the offensive zone a lot better than we've seen as of late.
-Another change on the power play which took place was the addition of Derrick Pouliot on the first unit. Once the Penguins got up 3-1, Pouliot was subbed in for Chris Kunitz to give the Penguins a slightly more defensively responsible look. Poulito ended up scoring the game-winning goal on a power play when he cleaned up a rebound. But those hopes of being defensively responsible were proven to be futile when a turnover by Kris Letang in the offensive zone led to a short-handed goal by Ryan Johansen. That said, it was more Letang's fault than anyone else's.
-Evgeni Malkin played possessed tonight. He looked like he could have set some scoring records at times. He tilted the ice at time with how he controlled the puck. The Blue Jackets looked helpless at times. We don't know if the physical nature of his current wingers - Chris Kunitz or Blake Comeau - opened up things for Malkin, but he looked like a speed skater at times.
-Beau Bennett looked comfortable on the fourth line with Maxim Lapierre and Nick Spaling. He had one forecheck which sort of led to a turnover by James Wisniewski which Lapierre nearly plunked in for a goal. Beyond that, his impact was minimal.
-Downie scored his 11th goal of the season. That's an astounding total given his lack of time on the top-six forwards, power play time and the amount of time he does spend in the penalty box.
-The Penguins did get a little sloppy defensively late in this game. Perhaps they were a little loose with such a large lead early in the third. Either way, they need to button that up.
-Tropp and a lot of the other Blue Jackets really tried to play this game chippy. On the first shift of the game, Johansen thumped Sidney Crosby with a nice shoulder-to-shoulder hit at center ice. Foligno challenge Despres to a fight after Despres boarded Johansen. Johansen appeared to get away with some interference against Winnik on a neutral zone shoulder check. Jared Boll whacked Downie to he ice with a big shoulder hit in the Columbus zone. Jack Johnson cross checked Bennett in the left corner of Columbus' zone. The Blue Jackets did not back down physically.
-We can't recall a better game by Johansen against the Penguins. He was easily that team's best player tonight.
-Cam Atkinson also had a fairly decent game. He was in the offensive quite a bit with some quality scoring chances.
-David Clarkson was nearly invisible.
-McElhinney played pretty well despite the score. He was just under assault all night.
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 41-25.
-The Penguins led in attempted shots, 65-44.
-Pouliot, Malkin and Patric Hornqvist each led the game with six shots.
-Johansen led the Blue Jackets with four shots.
-Letang led the game with 28:43 of ice time.
-Johnson led the Blue with 25:45 of ice time.
-The Penguins controlled faceoffs, 38-35 (52 percent).
-Crosby was 18 for 30 (60 percent).
-Johansen was 14 for 25 (56 percent).
-Savard led the game with four blocked shots.
-Letang led the Penguins with three blocked shots.
-Rob Scuderi played in his 700th career game.
-Paul Martin (105 points) passed up Duane Rupp (104 points) for 81st place on he franchise's all-time scoring list.