Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 7-4 win over New Jersey...
* The Pens have officially clinched home ice in the First Round of the playoffs against Columbus. Their magic number entering tonight was 4, and they got that with their win and the Jackets' 5-4 loss to Winnipeg.
* The Pens' playmaking in this game was absolutely gorgeous. By far the best pass of the night came off the stick of Sidney Crosby. He took a pass from Jake Guentzel and drew two defenders to him. As they swarmed him, Crosby managed to get off a no-look, backhand drop pass between the legs to Conor Sheary, who had a wide-open net for a slam dunk goal. Nick Bonino was the runner up for a pair of pretty assists in the first period, setting up Bryan Rust and Guentzel.
* Guentzel's goal was his fourth in as many games, extending his career-long streak. As Mike Sullivan said the other day, Guentzel goes to the net as hard as anybody he's ever seen. And right now, he's getting rewarded for it. His offensive instincts are terrific and he always seems to be in the right place at the right time. The way he, Crosby and Sheary read and react off each other is a thing of beauty.
* I can't tell you how impressed I've been with the line of Scott Wilson, Carter Rowney and Josh Archibald. They've chipped in a goal each of the last three games - first Wilson, then Rowney and tonight Archibald. That trio played together in WBS and have brought that chemistry to Pittsburgh. It's been fun to see them get comfortable and contribute the way they have. They're doing everything the coaching staff is asking of them and more. Depth is absolutely crucial in the playoffs, and these guys are providing it.
* The Pens' young players stepped up big on the scoresheet this game. Their first 4 goals were all scored by kids 25 or younger - Archibald, Guentzel, Rust and Sheary - with all of them coming from college hockey backgrounds. That's a testament to the Pens' drafting, development and coaching - and of course the players themselves.
* The Pens relied on their offense (and power play, which scored twice) to win this game, not necessarily their defense. It wasn't their most consistent effort in that regard. They allowed almost 40 shots and had a few breakdowns that ended up in the back of their net. Matt Murray did his best to make up for them, but the Pens have to be a little better in front of him.
* Trevor Daley returned to the lineup after a 19-game absence. He was solid in his first game action since Feb. 21. He was active, jumping up in the offensive zone and stepping right back on the second power-play unit. He set up Rowney for a chance and almost buried one from Crosby. Daley is going to be vitally important to the Pens with Kris Letang out, and it was great to see him back tonight.