In a reversal of fortunes, Jordan Staal
now has the hot hand (and foot) for the Penguins. He scored his first goal of the season in Pittsburgh’s 6-3 win at St. Louis on Saturday. Then he netted five goals, including two game-winners, in the Penguins pickup soccer game on Monday.
“I’m just taking it all in stride,” a humble Staal said of his MVP performance on the indoor soccer field adjacent to the ice rink at Southpointe.
Instead of holding a normal practice, head coach Michel Therrien let a majority of the players participate in a soccer match to work on their “conditioning.”
“It was a great changeup,” Staal said. “It’s always fun hanging out with the guys, playing a different game and loosening up a little bit.”
Staal’s squad won all three soccer contests, with him netting the decisive goals in the final two games. Maybe, Staal could score 80 goals a year if the NHL changed its rule of disallowing goals scored with a distinct-kicking motion.
"I wouldn't go that far," the 20-year-old center said.
In the second pickup game, Staal scored the last two goals for his squad in a 5-4 victory. In the final game, the first team to reach three goals would be the winner. With a 2-1 lead, Staal scored the clinching goal with a kick from the slot.
However, after going goal-less in 19 straight regular season games, it was his first NHL goal of the campaign that felt the most rewarding.
I’m glad to finally get that first one. Hopefully, I can kind of get that ball rolling. - Jordan Staal
“It was nice, no question about it,” he said. “I’m glad to finally get that first one. Hopefully, I can kind of get that ball rolling.”
Staal's frustration with his lack of production boiled over in Pittsburgh 4-1 loss to Phoenix on Oct. 30. After the game, he admitted to "not playing my best."
Staal and the Penguins responded to the adversity with a complete effort against the Blues.
“In the (St. Louis) game different guys were scoring and different guys were stepping up and play(ed) big games,” Staal said. “That’s what we need as a team struggling to score. We need to keep doing that.”
Staal proved his goal scoring prowess by netting 29 goals in his rookie campaign. His goal-scoring drought could be due to his natural tendency as a centerman to setup his teammates. Consider that he has only 19 shots this season, and registered only one shot (resulting in a goal) in the last four games.
“Mentally, I have to keep myself from passing the puck all the time,” he said of his unselfish play. “I really have to get some shots. Just keep shooting, if you start burying your head and just firing it as hard as you can it’s more likely to go in than if you try to place it. I have to start doing that more.”