Evgeni Malkin was scratched last night due to sickness.
Here’s hoping that he didn’t contract the coronavirus due to his sticks manufactured in China.
Anthony Angello was flexed into the lineup for the Penguins and he scored his first career NHL goal. That’s kind of the way things have been going for the local hockey club this season, no?
The Pens have been without Bryan Rust, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Nick Bjugstad, Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, John Marino, Domonik Kahun, and Patric Hornqvist at different points this season. Hell, I’m sure I even forgot some.
Yet, here they are, atop the toughest division in hockey.
It’s a testament to the culture that Mike Sullivan has created that this team can be where it is given all of the adversity that they’ve faced this season.
After last night’s game, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said, "You see the difference between a team that's good some days and not so good in others, and a team that's good all the time no matter who's in the lineup. You see that in the game tonight, the difference between them and us."
The Penguins have totally bought in to being championship caliber all the time. That’s how you wind up leading the division in late February despite having to deal with the things they’ve had to endure this season.
The Penguins have clearly bought into Mike Sullivan’s messaging. I’m not so sure they did last year. They were humbled by the New York Islanders. True championship contenders get humbled and make the necessary adjustments.
Paper champions, like the Leafs, think they’re better than they actually are.
Mike Sullivan, for my money, should be the Jack Adam’s award winner.
There are some other candidates, sure, but Mike Sullivan has the Penguins atop the most grueling division in hockey, and has been without many of his key players all season long.
Last month, Senator's defenseman Mark Borowiecki said, "As objectively as I can look at it, (the Pens are) probably the best coached team in the NHL. ... They put pucks behind D. Their gaps are great. They just look really responsible."
In a season filled with tumult, there's been one constant: Mike Sullivan.
Last night was a perfect microcosm of their entire year. Evgeni Malkin, who’s having one of his best campaigns ever, was scratched a few minutes before puck drop and his replacement scored a goal.
Mike Tomlin always preaches “next man up.” Mike Sullivan always talks about taking advantage of the “opportunity.” That’s what Anthony Angello did last night.
Well, the Penguins have another opportunity upcoming as the calendar flips to spring. The culture that Mike Sullivan has built has the Penguins in a position to contend for another Stanley Cup Championship.