Daniel Sprong Should Remain on Sidney Crosby’s Line

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Going into Friday night’s game against the Islanders, the Pittsburgh Penguins needed a big win to get within just one point of the last playoff spot. Head coach Mike Sullivan decided to tweak the lines and in doing so, top prospect Daniel Sprong was put on Sidney Crosby‘s right wing. It ended up working out to perfection: Sprong had his best game of the season. Crosby also had his best game in quite some time. Combined, they had 27 shot attempts while the New York Islanders only had five. They also had this:

That’s just outstanding work from both players.

Let’s take a look at how Sprong had a very strong game and why he should stay with Crosby.

Daniel Sprong Should Remain on Sidney Crosby’s Line

His Shot

Sprong scored his first two regular-season goals this season for the Penguins against New York. His first one ended up being a tap-in in a two-on-one situation. Crosby had a gorgeous pass right under the stick of Nick Leddy and Sprong had a wide open cage to work it and made no mistake. Here’s the goal:

His second goal of the game showed why his shot is so lethal. Justin Schultz was able to keep the play in the zone and Daniel Sprong came in from the left-side and picked his spot, top shelf on Jaroslav Halak. It definitely looked like a shot that could fool any goaltender just because of how quick it was. Here’s the goal:

He put the puck in one of the only places where it could’ve gone in. It was a perfect flicking motion for Sprong and showed why his shot has always been talked about as the best part of his game. Having a pure goal-scorer on Crosby’s wing could make his line deadly again. Crosby hasn’t lookedhimself for a lot of the season and has had his linemates changed constantly this season. Some consistency could be exactly what number 87 needs.

His play away from the puck

There seems to be a theme with young players coming up to the NHL, how they’re not ready because they have to “work on their game in the defensive zone.” It is true of many pure goal scorers who have come up through the minors. They have to do a lot more to earn playing time, while some coaches throw out players in the bottom six who they trust, but may not actually be a defensive improvement.

Last night, Sprong was good in his own zone and didn’t seem like a player who doesn’t know how to play defensively. There was a play during the first period of the game when Sprong came back to support the defenseman and intercepted a pass right as it was going to the point. The play didn’t amount to anything but it was the little things like that play that showed he’s fine defensively. It’ll be interesting to see how he keeps playing in his defensive zone moving forward through the rest of the season.

This could awaken Crosby for a while

For much of this season, Crosby hasn’t been his normal self. Going into the game, according to Corsica, Crosby had a 5v5 points per 60 of just 0.85 this season. Carter Rowney, who plays on the 4th line, was ahead of him as was Ryan Reaves who also plays on the fourth line. It’s not something we see every day from Crosby but this line change could help the Penguins string some wins together as they haven’t won consecutive games since early December.

This was Crosby’s first four-point game of the entire season and the first time he’s had three points in one game since November 27th against the Flyers. It’ll be interesting to see how long Mike Sullivan sticks with Sprong on his line but if this past game was any indication, they may form some serious chemistry as they play the second half of the season.

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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