June 23, 2024

Matthew Phillips was a spare part with the Washington Capitals just before 2:00 p.m. on Friday; the only thing that seemed to be separating him from an American Hockey League trip was the formality of clearing waivers.

His life and his itinerary changed a few minutes later.

He was working for a new team in a different town by 11 p.m.

Less than twelve hours later, Phillips was playing on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third line and second power play during a practice that featured the legendary Jaromir Jagr for the first fifteen minutes. Not to mention Kris Letang, Erik Karlsson, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby, among others.

Phillips remarked, “It was pretty cool.” “I am aware that not many people were observing me outside.”

When the Penguins play Los Angeles on Sunday at 6:08 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena, Mike Sullivan and the rest of the coaching staff appear to have been determined to keep him in the pretty significant roles he filled during that workout.

“It would be amazing if I could play in those positions,” Phillips remarked.

Despite Phillips’ meagre NHL career (he has one goal in 30 games, 27 of which have been with the Caps this season), Sullivan claimed to be impressed by the offensive production Phillips had produced in the American Hockey League, where he scored 36 goals with Calgary’s farm team in the previous season and 31 in 2021–2022.

According to Sullivan, “he’s a guy with a pretty impressive body of work, certainly, at the American League level.” “A top-1o scorer, he is. With the puck, he can be rather elusive. He has demonstrated the ability to play the power play quite well. Those are his game’s strong points.

Given that he is the lightest (160 pounds) and shortest player on the Penguins (5 feet 9 inches), size is unlikely to be a factor in that list of attributes.

Even so, he said, “I like to think I play a little bigger than I am,” and he is known for not being afraid to perform in busy places.

There is an expectation that the team will play on both sides of the puck, according to Sullivan, who also stated that Phillips will be required to contribute at both ends of the ice. However, if Phillips is to make a significant contribution, it seems likely to come in the attacking zone.
Though the Pittsburgh Penguins have some of the best point scorers in recent NHL history on their roster, their average goal total is just 2.90 a game, which puts them in 25th place in the league. It’s unclear how much a player who has spent the majority of his career in the minors can do to improve that, but Sullivan thinks he should be given the opportunity to try.

“He has demonstrated the ability to create and lead offense in both 5-on-5 and power play scenarios,” Sullivan said. Over the past few seasons, he has been among the American League’s best offensive contributors. My qualms about allowing him to do what he does best are completely nonexistent.

To rank 30th in the NHL, the Penguins’ power play has converted a pitiful 13.5 percent of its opportunities, which is partly to blame for their offensive shortcomings. To what extent Phillips, as part of the No. 2 unit, will be able to assist with that

“I’ve had the good fortune to participate in power plays throughout my entire career,” he remarked. “That’s something I enjoy doing.”

Although Phillips only joined the Capitals as a free agent this summer, he played there long enough to understand the team’s rivalry with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“It’s pretty interesting to just kind of flip to the other side of the rivalry overnight,” the man remarked. But for me, it’s a really great experience. That they felt compelled to take a chance on me is an honor. Making the most of my time here is my goal.

Which is exactly what he needs to do for the Penguins.

Penguins Hoping Phillips Comes Up Big for Their Offense

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