Patric Hornqvist is the most abused player in the NHL. I firmly believe this to be the case after shooting a lot of hockey over the last three seasons. I call it "abuse," because there don't seem to be many repercussions for what he faces around the net.
What I know is that nearly every game I photograph Hornqvist being taken to the ice in awful and brutal ways. It's understandable why. The guy isn't on a scoring terror, but that doesn't mean he doesn't terrorize goaltenders, including last night against Nashville.
After all, we all know where this guy scores the big goals ... speaking of the Predators:
[caption id="attachment_334982" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
There is legitimate reason to fear Hornqvist around the net. So teams treat him like they know that. Take that first photo at the top of this story, for instance. That's the aftermath of Hornqvist getting a crosscheck to the back after Pekka Rinne froze play.
He popped up, started shoving, and all four Predators on the ice, aside from Rinne, converged on him to ... abuse.
Seriously, think about that. Four Predators needed to handle Hornqvist.
Watching live, it never feels like Hornqvist gets the justice he deserves. And it certainly felt that way again in this 3-1loss to the Predators. Just before that photo up top, there was the crosscheck I mentioned.
The Penguins were on the power play. Hornqvist was stationed where he does his work. The shot came in, Hornqvist waved at it. He waved again as Rinne put it to rest and then he relaxed in front of the net. Then this:
Roman Josi was the one who came in and extended the stick into Hornqvist's back. Colton Sissons and Nick Bonino aggressively joined at the defense of Josi when Hornqvist popped up.
At first, Ryan Ellis raises an arm in question before diving in. And while I've trumpeted the fact that Hornqvist gets worked around the net without drawing nearly the number of penalties he deserves ... he didn't deserve one here as I thought he did when it happened live.
Was Josi right about the crosscheck? No. Did Hornqvist go down in a term best described by Michel Therrien? Yeah, he did. Put them both in the box, then. The crosscheck and the splash.
It got me thinking, though, what are Hornqvist's numbers when drawing penalties? Well, he's drawn 11 and taken eight. His plus-three in that regard is great in comparison to Evgeni Malkin's minus-six, but he still doesn't draw nearly as many as the eye test would suggest.
Erik Gudbranson, Tanner Pearson and Jamie Oleksiak all have drawn more. Dominik Simon and Nick Bjugstad have each drawn just one less and Garrett Wilson, in a much more limited role on most nights, has drawn eight in his own right.
If the eye test meant everything, Hornqvist would lead the team.
I thought it would be fun to share some of the photos I shot of Hornqvist facing some punishment on Friday night:
[caption id="attachment_798899" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_798900" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_798901" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_798902" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_798903" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
My favorite of the bunch is probably P.K. Subban laughing shield to shield after the two engaged in some scrapping around the net. Well, second to the one up top at least.
LAST GASP EFFORT
In a game the Penguins were trailing, quite literally, from the start ... it's hard to start in the defensive zone and come back. It's even harder to start in the defensive zone, and defend, after a long shift and an icing.
Nick Bjugstad and Dominik Simon were stuck on the ice in that situation. Jack Johnson and Justin Schultz on the defensive side. Hornqvist got a change for Bryan Rust, but the rest were gassed.
[caption id="attachment_798910" align="aligncenter" width="640"] MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]
As they returned for the faceoff, I shot a photo of Bjugstad and Schultz bent over, sucking wind. It was a 1-0 game in the Predators' favor, and it felt like a moment that might require a time out to prevent further damage.
Further damage was nearly a very real issue, but it wasn't. The Penguins scrambled. Matt Murray scrambled. Schultz made a play in front of the net. The freshest legs on the ice, Rust, couldn't get to the puck and then Bjugstad sucked it up for one last gasp and turned it on.
He took a hop step, sped to the point, slapped at the puck and found himself racing down the ice -- moments after that hunched over photo was taken. I've been there. Everyone who's ever played any sport has. You're gassed, you're sucking wind, you stare at a point in the distance and hope you don't pass out. Then you go.
Bjugstad went from drifting and standing near the cage to muscling and hustling his way up the ice and drawing a penalty. Instead of the Predators doubling their advantage, Bjugstad gave the Penguins a chance to even it up ... even if they would give up two more before getting a goal of their own.
As always, the rest of the game's best photos follow the first image up top. And I'll see you guys and gals in the comments.