Drive to the Net: Last call for Simon bandwagon


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Dominik Simon celebrates his second goal of the season Tuesday at PPG Paints Arena. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

Dominik Simon set a career high for points in a game against the Flyers Tuesday night. One goal, two assists, three points. That's all it took. Understandably, a three point night can be looked at as a low career high for a forward who plays nightly with the millennium's best center.

For Simon, though, his best play often comes when there's no point involved at all. That's both why he fits so well with top-tier duo Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel and why perception can still be tilted toward the "Simon shouldn't play with Crosby and Guentzel if he doesn't score" crowd.

On most nights, and often what I feel are Simon's best games, he works as a tireless link-up partner for one of the game's best scoring pairs. It doesn't always mean he finishes his shots. It doesn't always mean he gets a primary or secondary assist. But, it means that he helps the Penguins get out of their own end, into their opponent's and helps his teammates guide the puck into the net.

Tuesday, he was both a finisher and a primary creator, earning the No. 2 star in the Penguins' 7-1 win over the Flyers.

The finishing part earned him the photo you see above, gliding with his arms up until he was close enough to check the boards to my right.

"I saw the far side," Simon told our site after the game. "That's all I wanted. I wasn't trying to pick a corner or anything. Just hit that side."

[caption id="attachment_908935" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Dominik Simon eyes the far side of the net. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

Honestly, that's all that's needed sometimes. Put it on net. Put it where the goalie isn't, right? Our Dejan Kovacevic followed up that response asking why Simon chose to shoot the puck in that moment, when he can pass up an opportunity now and then.

"I didn't really have another play," he replied.

Shooting the puck isn't typically the winger's problem. Part of what he does to create havoc and scoring opportunities is simply putting the puck on net. He's done it 27 times this season, compared to Crosby's 35 and Guentzel's 43. Shooting really isn't a problem ... finishing can be ...

What Simon doesn't typically have a problem with is passing well, particularly when it comes to passing with Crosby. From my view, Simon's best play in the win came on his pass to Crosby to set up goal No. 4.

[caption id="attachment_908941" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Simon watches for a passing lane for an assist. -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

Left-handed Simon, coming down on the left wing, watched and waited until there was an 80-foot lane to Crosby. He found his man, sent the puck across the ice, across outstretched sticks and to the ever-so-slightly-trailing goal scorer.

The NHL's public relations department put this tweet out after the game, by the way -- including a pretty obscure and wild statistic:

But, that's the goal they chose to show off with it. Because it was gorgeous. Yeah, Crosby's part too -- as expected. The patience to wait for Brian Elliott to commit to his move while Crosby picked his spot. It does a great job of showing Simon's role as well, though. How deep in the zone he goes, the perfect pass, the perfect finish.

The truth of the matter is that it doesn't, it won't ever, matter what fan consensus is on who should play on what line:

He gets the helmet because of what his team thinks of the way he plays.

That's eight points in eight games for Simon, by the way. Good enough for that helmet, good enough for Crosby and it should be good enough for the masses.

Last call to jump on the Dominik Simon bandwagon ... Someone has to make way for Evgeni Malkin's expected return on Saturday, and it's not going to be this guy.


[caption id="attachment_908926" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Penguins vs. Flyers, PPG Paints Arena, Oct. 29, 2019 -- MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

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