Penguins far more than the Sid & Geno Show

April 14, 2018 GMT

Speaking of the highlight-reel goals by superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin after the Penguins’ 7-0 win in their playoff opener Wednesday, Mike Sullivan put it best.

“There aren’t too many guys who can make those types of plays,” he said.

But, luckily for the Penguins, there also aren’t too many guys who can make the kind of far-less-conspicuous and under-the-radar plays many of their other forwards did during the Game 1 rout of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Be it a determined forecheck by Carl Hagelin that leads to a goal, a dogged shift by Riley Sheahan and the fourth line or some secondary scoring from Bryan Rust, the Penguins were far more than just the Sid & Geno Show when it came to their forwards Wednesday.

“We know you need every single guy,” Hagelin said, “and (in Game 1) every guy showed up, which is good. It was good to get a lot of guys involved.”

That was true on the scoresheet and off of it. Nine of the Penguins’ 12 forwards had at least one point. Styrangely enough, star Phil Kessel — eighth in the NHL in points during the regular season — joined fourth-liners Tom Kuhnhackl and Zach Aston-Reese as the only Penguins forwards not to have at least one point Wednesday.

“Depth is key,” Rust said. “And if we can keep getting those contributions, that’s going to help us.

“We want to keep coming at them in waves with first line through fourth line.”

The Penguins did that in Game 1. Crosby, the greatest player of his generation and the author of a hat trick Wednesday, ranked third among centers on the team during the game in terms of even-strength ice time.

Crosby’s 11 minutes, 5 seconds of even-strength ice time trailed third-line center Derick Brassard (11:44) and No. 2 center Malkin (12:28) and wasn’t appreciably a great deal more than fourth-line center Sheahan (10:17).

Though not all four lines contributed goals in Game 1, Sheahan had a strong shift just prior to Hagelin’s first-period goal. And the penalty-killers — who were fantastic all game — buoyed Malkin to his goal, which came seconds after he emerged from the penalty box. Hagelin and Zach Aston-Reese stymied the Flyers on their first power-play of the game. Hagelin blocked two shots in that shift alone.

The penalty-killing forwards (Hagelin, Aston-Reese, Sheahan, Tom Kuhnhackl and Rust) helped hold the Flyers to no shots on goal in four power-play opportunities.

The so-called “glue guys” also contributed on the other special team: Guentzel (goal), Brassard and Conor Sheary combined for the points on the Penguins’ only power-play goal of Game 1.

Brassard was playing his first playoff game for the Penguins after playing against them in the past four postseasons. He’d seen the depth up close in the past. On Wednesday, he was a big part of it.

“There’s a lot of guys who are trying to be first on the puck, who are using their speed,” Brassard said of the Penguins’ forwards corps. “It’s pretty hard to handle. We have a lot of guys who were playing their ‘A’ game tonight — and combine that with a strong effort as team, all being on the same page.”

The Penguins’ organizational model in the Crosby/Malkin era has typically featured a strong No. 3 center. Brassard fits that role, and Sheahan is also the envy of most teams as a No. 4.

Sheahan was back in that role after playing the final five regular-season games as the third-line center because Brassard was out because of a lower-body injury. Brassard played for the first time in 22 days Wednesday.

“Just the legs and the lungs, a little bit, after missing (time), it was hard,” Brassard said. “But that first one is out of the way.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.