Sticks break. Sticks get lost in play. When it happens to a defenseman, in the defensive zone at least, it should be a priority to fill the empty hands with a new piece of lumber. That doesn't mean it always happens.
Brian Dumoulin lost a stick in the middle of play in the second period of the Penguins' 5-1 loss to the Blues Saturday afternoon. The Penguins got trapped in their own zone, partially a result of a top defensive presence missing a tool to move the puck.
As they got structured defensively, Jake Guentzel extended his stick into my view.
I was already shooting Dumoulin, as you see as the first image atop this story, looking for a chance to get him making a play defensively without his stick. Guentzel's offering came in from the right edge of my frame and I immediately took notice.
Ideally, it's a winger who gives up his stick and defends the perimeter without one. Ok, ideally all six players on a team have their sticks, but the constant desire to maximize performance by tweaking equipment leaves a lot of lumber fractured and snapped on the ice.
So, Guentzel did the right thing here. It's an awareness play. You don't want to have to react to a defenseman screaming for the stick, so good on him.
This was all very normal to see happen. The abnormal part? As Sidney Crosby took off on a breakaway, Guentzel didn't go to the bench for a stick or to be replaced with a new stick held by new hands and guided by different legs.
[caption id="attachment_792820" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
Guentzel skated along Dumoulin, looking like an Olympic track star reaching for a baton, and took back his loaner from the defenseman. From there, he skated up ice, joined the attack and got a chance shortly after Crosby was stopped by Jordan Binnington.
As is the case on nearly every shift, players change as they get a chance and while one of the linemates buys time by either working on the forecheck or by helping possess the puck in the defensive end. Guentzel stayed on the ice as Crosby, denied on his breakaway, swapped for Nick Bjugstad.
Guentzel worked in the defensive zone to help retrieve the puck, wound it up and headed 120 or more feet in the other direction, earning a chance for himself, and his team, while trailing 4-0.
He beat former Penguin Oskar Sundqvist en route, watched additional former Penguin Robert Bortuzzo pick up Bjugstad and tried to sneak a puck over the shoulder of Bennington on the short side of the cage.
He didn't land his punch, but it was a good swing when trying to climb out of the hole he helped create with a lackluster first period. No single person to blame, of course, but good to see the redemption effort on such a heads up shift by No. 59.