Following the 2014 season, the Penguins brass knew they needed a shake-up. On June 27, 2014 Jim Rutherford made a bold move for the team not long after taking over as General Manager for Pittsburgh. Rutherford sent James Neal to Nashville in exchange for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Nick Spaling was later sent to Toronto in the Phil Kessel deal.
When Hornqvist was first acquired, many fans compared numbers between Neal and Hornqvist stating that Hornqvist is going to have an increase in production finally playing with offensive talent. Nashville’s number one center was Mike Fisher. Not to bash him, but he is no Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. But what the fans did not expect were the intangibles that’s Hornqvist brought to the table. He is a complete player, honing his game for all three zones. Hornqvist is the type of player that teams need to go deep into the playoffs, and he showed just that in 2016. Hornqvist was a pain for the opposing defenders in front of the net and that allowed the Penguins offense to cycle the puck efficiently and get a high volume of shots on net.
With the departure of Mike Johnston and the promotion of Mike Sullivan, Hornqvist found new life in his game. This Penguins team in general does not give up under Mike Sullivan, as we have seen to start the season. The Penguins got off to a 2-0 start before dropping two games in a row. The two loses came off of sloppy games for the most part. However, Thursday night there was a Stanley Cup rematch in Pittsburgh. The San Jose Sharks coming back to PPG Paints Arena for the first time since their game 5 victory. The Sharks got out to a two goal lead, the Penguins were playing with four defenseman. Everybody thought the game might as well have been over. Everybody except Mike Sullivan and his Penguins team. With 13 minutes remaining in the game, Evgeni Malkin fired a turning shot towards Martin Jones that beat him after going off a defender and this gave the Penguins new life.
The following goal is a direct result of Patric Hornqvist’s drive. Hornqvist follows Brenden Dillon into the corner and checks him. That check allowed Scott Wilson to recover the puck from Dillon, walk to the front of the net and slide a backhander by Jones to tie the game. Hornqvist has shown that he is never going to give up despite a deficit. Hornqvist is willing to throw his body around for the betterment of the team.
The Penguins got a power play with about six minutes remaining in the game. Hornqvist was parked in his familiar place in front of the net while the rest of the unit cycled the puck around. Phil Kessel eventually takes a show from Jones’ right. The shot is saved, however Hornqvist being in front of the net causes havoc and he recovers the puck and jams it off the goalpost and eventually bangs the puck home.
Patric Hornqvist’s never-ending drive and determination fueled the injury plagued Penguins on that night. These are the types of games the Penguins need to get from players while Captain Sidney Crosby remains sidelined with a concussion. Patric Hornqvist has continued to impress everybody with his effort and this is exactly what Jim Rutherford and company knew they were getting from day one.