Thoughts, musings and observations from the Penguins' 4-0 win over Ottawa.
* The Pens officially clinched home ice in the First Round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with their victory over the Sens. That was important to the players, as they've been almost unstoppable at PPG Paints Arena. As Brian Dumoulin recently pointed out, just look at their record throughout this year: they finished the season with 30 home wins for just the fourth time in franchise history, are 7-1-1 in their past 8 home games and 18-2-1 in their last 20 home contests. It's huge for the Pens to be able to start the postseason in a building that gives them such a boost.
"You want home ice, you want your fans to help you win series, that's what it comes down to," Carl Hagelin said. "We have a lot of confidence playing at home."
* The Pens also set a single-season record for highest power-play success rate. They finished the year going 68 for 260, clicking at 26.2 percent - just barely passing the previous franchise mark of 26 percent, set in 1995-96 with a unit that included Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Ron Francis. Tonight Sidney Crosby scored off a bank shot from behind the goal line for his 29th tally of the season, assisted by Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. Both just incredible trios of talents the Pens have been blessed with over the years.
"I remember watching that power play," Crosby said. "They scored a lot and they scored a lot of really nice ones, too. Highlight-reel goals. We certainly have a group that can score and we have guys who provide different things. I think an important part of us winning is special teams and definitely the power play. We take a lot of pride in it and it was good we were able to create good things throughout the year and help us win."
* Overall, the Pens got plenty of practice on special teams tonight. The power play got six opportunities, including a double-minor when Riley Sheahan was bloodied from a high stick. The penalty kill also saw a lot of time as Evgeni Malkin was called for both slashing and cross-checking on the same play and served the calls consecutively. The Jacques Squad has had their share of struggles recently, but it feels like they've started to round into form the last week or so. Even though they gave up a goal last night against Columbus, they were solid for the most part and carried that over into tonight.
* Patric Hornqvist didn't score on the power play, but he did score at even strength, also getting his 29th of the year. He's the Pens' hottest player heading into the playoffs, as he now has goals in five straight games, six of his last seven and 11 of his past 14. He finished the regular season with a career-long six-game point streak, and we'll see if he can carry that over into the postseason.
* The Sens had their chances throughout the game, including a few high-quality ones, but Casey DeSmith came up with some big saves. The rookie goalie was really solid in his first start since March 21 against Montreal, making 35 stops in the game, and was rewarded with his first career NHL shutout as a result. "Thrilling," he said when asked how it felt. "Everything that you would expect it to be, it is. I'm just really thankful that it came at an important time, in an important game."
* It was terrific to see four Pens finish the regular season by dressing for all 82 games, especially considering how much hockey they've played over the last two years. Crosby, Kessel, Jake Guentzel and Olli Maatta all did so. There isn't a lot that Crosby hasn't accomplished in his incredible 13-year career, but this was something he hadn't done, so it was particularly special to see him do it. The same goes for Maatta, considering all of the injuries he's dealt with in his young career. He registered an assist on Guentzel's goal, tying his career-high of 29 points. Meanwhile, Kessel skated in all 82 games for the eighth straight year for what is just an unbelievable iron-man streak.
* The Pens couldn't have ended the regular season on a better note. After a resilient, come-from-behind victory on Thursday on the road against Columbus, the Pens built on that with an even better effort at home against Ottawa. Now they have the next few days to rest and recover while they wait for the rest of the league to conclude their schedules and figure out who their opponent will be.