I’m not at all surprised to see Jake Guentzel play well during this series against Nashville.
I talked to him last season in late December, right before he got sent off to Pittsburgh for good. He was in the middle of a scorching hot streak, but you would never know he had become one of the darlings of the AHL. He was very humble, gave all the credit to his teammates for putting him in good positions and said he still had plenty to learn.
But you could easily tell from the way he attacked the net on a nightly basis that he would be a special player. He had a hat trick against Springfield in a game right after Christmas, and one of his goals was the total package: great instincts along the side boards to start a rush, breakaway speed to blow past his defender and finesse in front of the goal to finish the play.
He had no fear, and he has continued to show that against the Predators.
James Neal slashes him across the hands to start the game, but he doesn’t get rattled. He goes to the net hard all game long, gets tossed around like a rag doll and gets right back up.
Other than Sidney Crosby, he was easily the best player on the ice for Pittsburgh in this game. Although he was kept off the board, he had a handful of Grade A chances around the net.
His numbers this postseason are eye-popping, and it does help to have the consensus best player in the world on his line. But Guentzel continues to create a lot of his own luck, and the Penguins now need him to continue that more than ever.
Other thoughts from the game
- Pekka Rinne was lights-out. That breakaway stop on Crosby in the second period was the turning point of the game. We’ll see if he gets rattled again by the crowd at PPG Paints Arena with the series shifting back to Pittsburgh.
- Charles Barkley apparently wants to see Jeremy Roenick’s hindquarters eaten by an alligator. I don’t know whether to laugh or be terrified.
- It’s honestly pretty cool the NHL “war room” can stop a game in the middle of a shift to review a goal. Purists might not have liked the sequence of events, but that saved a lot of potential backtracking.
On a side note, congrats to the Colorado Eagles for winning the Kelly Cup with a four-game sweep! It was well deserved: They had to beat the two-time defending league champions and the league’s top team from this season to even make the final round.
Oh, and they played in six overtime games this postseason. They won all six. Talk about impressive.
Finally, don’t forget Syracuse hosts Grand Rapids on Wednesday in a virtual must-win game in the Calder Cup Finals. My guess is the Crunch gets a much-needed win.
Enjoy your Tuesday!