Penguins’ Sidney Crosby happy to have Jake Guentzel as his left-hand man |

Penguins’ Sidney Crosby happy to have Jake Guentzel as his left-hand man

Jonathan Bombulie
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jake Guentzel (59) celebrates his goal with teammate Sidney Crosby (87) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C.

When a pregame announcement letting fans know that Jake Guentzel had signed a five-year contract extension worth $30 million flashed across the PPG Paints Arena scoreboard on Thursday night, the crowd responded with a hearty ovation.

Sidney Crosby was in the locker room preparing to take on the Detroit Red Wings at the time, but if he had been in the stands, he probably would have given a round of applause, too.

Among all the good reasons to lock up a talented young scorer like Guentzel to a longer-term contract, one stands above the rest: It will give Crosby a suitable partner in crime throughout the rest of his early 30s.

Whether it’s on the ice, where Guentzel usually plays on Crosby’s left wing, or in the locker room, where Guentzel sits in the stall to Crosby’s left, the pair will be joined at the hip for the foreseeable future.

“Whether he likes it or not,” Crosby joked after practice Friday afternoon.

Crosby has clicked with a handful of wingers in the decade-plus since he started out as a fresh-faced 18-year-old with John LeClair and Mark Recchi by his side in 2005. His combination with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis in the first half of this decade was a cornerstone of the team’s success for long stretches of time. Marian Hossa’s short stay on Crosby’s wing was memorable.

By the time his new contract expires, however, it’s not hard to imagine Guentzel will end up being the winger who has the most sustained successful partnership with Crosby in his entire career.

“He’s had a lot of success, right from his first shift,” Crosby said. “He came in right away and made an impact and he’s been consistent since then. He’s won a Stanley Cup. He’s done a lot of really important things for us.”

The most important reason Guentzel and Crosby have clicked over the past two-plus seasons is that they see the game in a similar way. Guentzel is a coach’s kid. Crosby is the consummate student of the game. They play on the same wavelength.

“It’s just being able to anticipate plays,” Crosby said. “He’s reacting a lot of the time out there, not necessarily having to think. A lot of times when you have to think, you’re a step behind or you’re hesitant. He’s just got good hockey sense. He knows where to go to support the puck, where to go to find holes. He can make plays when the puck’s on his stick, too.”

Another reason they’ve had success together is Guentzel’s eagerness to sit under Crosby’s learning tree. When the captain pulls out an iPad to review a play on the bench, Guentzel is often looking right over his shoulder.

“Just the way he sees things, his point of view on different situations, you would never expect anyone to see plays the way he does,” Guentzel said. “I’m learning stuff every day.”

Anytime Crosby is asked about his linemates, he always starts with a caveat. There are plenty of talented forwards on the roster, he’ll say, and they’ve all played together at one point or another. It doesn’t really matter who is slotted with whom.

He didn’t stray from that belief when discussing Guentzel’s contract extension on Friday, but he did admit the obvious. He’s happy his left-hand man will be sticking around for a while.

“It’s been tough the last few years to keep the team together,” Crosby said. “I think a lot of teams deal with that turnover, trying to keep a core group. He’s a younger guy, but to know that we’re going to have him for the next five years, it’s great. You want to build and create chemistry. As forwards, we’ve all played with different guys, but it’ll be great to have him.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.