June 24, 2024

Drew O’Connor wasn’t eager to discuss it.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about it either, especially in the immediate aftermath of the Penguins’ disappointing 6-4 loss to the Bruins on a crucial Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena.

However, when you have a packed arena with 18,393 paying fans and a national TV audience on ABC witnessing something like this…
Well, it’s hard not to take a closer look.

Eller expects flood of 'good memories' in Washington return with Penguins |  NHL.com

Because what we witnessed was something special, something deserving of attention, even in defeat.

“Incredible goal,” Mike Sullivan responded when asked about it. “OC really put in an inspiring effort tonight. He played with a lot of intensity. That goal epitomizes it. You can see his strength, his skating ability, and his scoring touch. It was a fantastic goal. It energized the whole building and the team as well. We talked during intermissions about getting the next goal to get within striking distance. That goal did it for us. We had a lot of momentum after that.”

Let’s break it down a bit, starting with the context: The Penguins trailed 4-2 entering the third period, and then they found themselves shorthanded due to a power play opportunity for the Bruins, leaving the arena quieter than ever.

But amidst this, there’s been a consistent emergence of this young player during the Penguins’ recent 8-0-3 streak. O’Connor, only 25, has scored six of his 16 goals this season in the past twelve games, along with notable improvements in various aspects of his game. He’s not just creating chaos anymore; he’s creating opportunities, showing precision in passing and shooting, and evolving into a more well-rounded player.

Now, onto the goal itself:

The play starts with a heads-up play by Lars Eller, intercepting the puck at the left power-play point and delivering a pinpoint pass to O’Connor in stride at center red. O’Connor then executes a slick move around a Boston defenseman and fires a shot past Linus Ullmark, despite limited space on the short side.

When asked about the goal, O’Connor gave credit to Eller for the pass and humorously mentioned closing his eyes for the shot. But his focus quickly shifted to the team’s overall situation and the need to focus on the next game.

Despite the loss, O’Connor’s performance and ongoing development provide optimism for the Penguins’ future. He’s making the most of his opportunities this season and establishing himself as a key contributor to the team’s success.

So, while the defeat stings, O’Connor’s goal serves as a reminder of his potential and the promising direction of the Penguins.

2022-23 Season in Review: Drew O'Connor - PensBurgh

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