Penguins notebook: Shootout in World Junior final leaves Crosby unfulfilled
Two major talking points emerged from a thrilling gold medal game at the World Junior Championships on Thursday night in Montreal, and they were topics being discussed in the Penguins locker room as the team returned from a five-day break Friday afternoon.
First, there was praise for both teams that contested a dramatic final game — a 5-4 shootout victory for the United States over Canada — at the end of an outstanding tournament.
“I think it’s one of the greatest international hockey tournaments that there is. It’s terrific hockey,” said coach Mike Sullivan, who has played and coached for USA Hockey multiple times in his career. “That game (Thursday) night was two really good teams competing extremely hard. I think that’s hockey at its best.”
Second, there was a debate about whether such an exciting and important game should be decided by a shootout.
“I don’t love it,” said Sidney Crosby, the reigning captain of Canada’s senior men’s team. “I just like seeing overtime until somebody wins in a scenario like that. I mean, round robin, you understand. You can’t have games going forever. When it starts to get to semifinals, finals, I like to see next goal wins.”
Crosby admitted it might look like his opinion was colored by which team won. Sullivan, though, who was obviously rooting for a different outcome, agreed with his captain.
“This is a fundamental discussion that we have at the NHL level all the time,” Sullivan said. “I think the traditionalists think that hockey’s a team sport and should be decided that way. I tend to be one of those guys.”
While most of his teammates headed somewhere warm — Evgeni Malkin went to Florida and Patric Hornqvist to Cancun, for example — Crosby spent the team’s five-day break in Vail, Colo.
“I kind of miss having a winter,” Crosby said.
The Penguins returned from break with two players sick and two players on the injured list.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and winger Carl Hagelin did not practice because of illness. Defenseman Brian Dumoulin (broken jaw) and goalie Matt Murray (lower body) remain out with injuries.
Sullivan said Murray skated Thursday morning on his own and Friday morning with goalie coach Mike Bales.
“He’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “Obviously, the next step is for him to join the team, and that will be day-to-day.”
With Murray and Dumoulin out, the Penguins recalled goalie Tristan Jarry and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday morning.
Jarry and Ruhwedel played one game for the Baby Pens during the NHL club’s week off. Jarry had 25 saves, and Ruhwedel a goal and an assist in a 3-2 win over Hartford on Tuesday.
With Fleury and Murray sidelined, the nets were manned by unfamiliar faces during Friday’s practice. Jarry was at one end. Mike Chiasson, the Penguins’ manager of youth hockey programs who played for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2005-07, filled in at the other.
Back to work
After returning to the ice following a five-day break, the Penguins neither looked nor felt particularly sharp, especially at the start of practice.
“Today was so hard,” Malkin said. “It’s a long break. It’s usually two days max. It’s a tough practice.”
Sullivan said the skate included plenty of puck exchanges, to get players back in the habit of giving and receiving passes, and a few minutes of scrimmaging to ramp back up the level of competitiveness.
“They’re such well-conditioned athletes that when they take time off, five days seems like an eternity,” Sullivan said.