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To the Point

Penguins have 19 wins on the season in 29 games (19-6-4) for 42 points, which is 1 point better than the Red Wings and Lightning and 2 better than the Islanders. Regular season success means very little for the franchise after five straight disappointing playoff results.

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

This week, I'm going to borrow the Elliotte Friedman (30 thoughts) approach for my Sunday commentary.

1. Evgeni Malkin: Malkin played over 45 minutes in two games, that's why he was looking visibly tired during the power play in overtime against the Blue Jackets. After making some strides in the faceoff circle over the last two years, Malkin is struggling badly this year. Saturday night, Malkin was 3-11 (27%) and for the season, 42.6%.

2. Robert Bortuzzo: Penguins are missing Olli Maatta for a couple of weeks, now they'll be without Bortuzzo as he left in the second period to an undisclosed injury. I would expect Brian Dumoulin to get the call over Scott Harrington or Derrick Pouliot.

3. Thomas Greiss: It is probably unfair to compare Greiss to Fleury but on Saturday night, it was a glaring difference in their goaltending differences as Columbus beat Greiss three times on penalty shots/shootout attempts. The penalty shot awarded to Boone Jenner was disappointing considering his Bobby Orr embellishment to draw the call against Simon Despres.

4. Stan Savran: Speaking of disappointing, there's not much else one can say after Savran's mouth opened up comparing the Penguins first period to that of "I can't breathe" shirts. Savran or someone at Root Sports Pittsburgh quickly realized the mistake and upon coming back to the studio, Savran offered an apology on the air and followed it up on Twitter as well. There's no taking back the comments but hopefully Savran, a long-time reporter in Pittsburgh, was able to step above the political correctness and insensitivity of his comments to own his mistake.

5. Steve Downie: 29 penalty minutes on Saturday night, 20 as result of two different 10-minute misconduct penalties. Downie is on pace for over 350 penalty minutes this season. It used to be 2-minutes for being Matt Cooke, now it is 10-minutes for being Steve Downie. Head Coach Mike Johnston didn't look particularly pleased with the second misconduct penalty.

6. Kris Letang: It wasn't pretty for the first two periods for Letang as he struggled to get the puck up the ice on the power play and misfired on a number of passes. The opposite was true in the third period as Letang scored twice, once short-handed and the other with Greiss pulled from the net. The short-handed goal was all about Letang reading the play and using his outstanding skating ability to join Craig Adams on the odd-man break. Every game, Letang is able to flip the ice because of his ability to expose the weak-side defense.

7. NHL Fear: Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman in his latest 30 thoughts had this wonderful bit... "The Canucks were steaming when Anders Lee eventually got a hearing for elbowing Carl Gunnarsson, but Stephane Robidas didn’t for his shot to Shawn Matthias. The biggest complaint (and the Blues had it too) was that if a player is responsible for accidents with his stick, shouldn’t he also be responsible for accidents with his body parts? I’ve asked about this before, and the response is usually something along the lines of, "Then teams will complain there are too many suspensions." For a sport played so quickly and without fear, the league sure has a way to live in their fears.

8. Embellishment: On September 11th, NHL announced rules changes for the 2014-15 season, one being Rule 64 (Diving/Embellishment).. The supplementary discipline penalties associated with Rule 64.3 (Diving/Embellishment) will be revised to bring attention to and more seriously penalize players (and teams) who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Fines will be assessed to players and head coaches on a graduated scale outlined below. It should surprise no one, the league hasn't announced a single fine and most games, the acts are rarely whistled without an even-up call.

9. Forward Thinking: While the Penguins are suffering through their annual injury and illness grinder missing Crosby, Dupuis and Kunitz, the legacy of Ray Shero after the 2009 Stanley Cup looks worse and worse with each game the team has to utilize guys like Zach Sill, Andrew Ebbett and Bobby Farnham. The depth chart is so thin, they've already had to make a deal for one player (Rob Klinkhammer) about to hit the waiver wire. Shero's guys like Dominik Uher, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Adam Payerl appear to be washouts since rookie Bryan Rust managed to earn his way to the NHL over the three veteran minor leaguers. If injuries continue to mount at forward, GM Jim Rutherford will have no choice but go looking at the waiver wire or trade market.

10. Defense Minded: Derrick Pouliot, Scott Harrington, and Brian Dumoulin is what Shero left Rutherford to build on defense or use as trade bait. Losing Maatta to an upper body injury (shoulder?) again, Bortuzzo having an up and down year, there doesn't appear to be much room on the depth chart to make a deal involving one of the three unless the team can lock up one of Christian Ehrhoff or Paul Martin. I expect the Penguins to lockup Ehrhoff in January and then Rutherford will make a deal to get some help up front for Malkin and Blake Comeau.

11. Playoff Factor: If you rank in the top 16 in even-strength Faceoff %, Corsi For, and PDO, you will have a strong chance to be a playoff team. According to Puckalytics, Penguins are 13th Corsi For (51.3) and 2nd PDO (102.41), while NHL shows Pens 20th in Faceoffs % (48.7). Basically, those who believe PDO is the best indicator for luck are probably thinking the Penguins are about to regress but I believe PDO is an indicator of talent rising above the garage league muck. Using Puckalytics, 6th in shooting % (8.83) and 4th in save % (93.59).

12. Coaching Impact: Through 28 games last season, Penguins had 51.6% Corsi while ES and game is tied under Dan Bylsma according to Puck on Net. This year under Mike Johnston, they have 52.7% Corsi.

13. Tristan Jarry: Goaltending prospect Tristan Jarry started to give some hope of a possible long-term replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury but the young goaltender has posted less than impressive numbers this season for the struggling Edmonton Oil Kings. In 26 games, 2.75 goals against, and 90.8 save percentage. Not exactly a way to earn a chance to play for Canada's World Junior's team.

14. NHL Salary Cap: During the recent NHL Board of Governors meetings, most media outlets reported the league is projecting a $73 million salary cap for next season. If you'll recall, the same was said last year and because the Canadian Dollar (CAD) is taking a hit over the last year, it could be another modest increase to $71 million. Whatever the number will be, Penguins have 12 players signed for $53.7 million, leaving $16-19 million to fill out a roster that is getting older without much help on the way.

15. Penguins Future: One way to address both the cap situation next season is going with younger players like Kasperi Kapanen, Oskar Sundqvist, Derrick Pouliot, Scott Harrington, and Brian Dumoulin over retention of veterans like Christian Ehrhoff, Paul Martin, Marcel Goc, and Craig Adams.

16. Blake Comeau: If there's one negative to Comeau's production, he's going to want to be paid. The Penguins might have to pay $3-4 million to keep him if he continues to on his 20-goal pace. Just another reason why brittle Beau Bennett is going to keep getting chances in Pittsburgh.

17. Free Agents: After Christmas, rumor mill usually begins to churn out trade rumors on a daily basis until the trade deadline passes on March 2nd at 3 PM. Expect players like Antoine Vermette, Paul Martin, Andrej Sekera, Mats Zuccarello, and Nick Foligno to get some interest across the league.

18. All-Star Game: There doesn't appear much interest or excitement in the NHL All-Star game outside of host Columbus and Latvia. That's right Latvia. Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons is the leading vote getter because of the support he's getting from his fellow Latvians. A country of 2 million people, yet at last check, he has over 803k votes. It must be great to be the only NHL player from Latvia. It would be disappointing to have someone like Girgensons starting over players like Crosby, Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, and about 20 other centers in the Eastern Conference.

19. 19 wins and counting: Penguins have 19 wins on the season in 29 games (19-6-4) for 42 points, which is 1 point better than the Red Wings and Lightning and 2 better than the Islanders. Regular season success means very little for the franchise after five straight disappointing playoff results. Meanwhile on the other end of the spectrum are the Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers. Rutherford appears to have left Ron Francis little to work with in Carolina's rebuild but not so in Edmonton. The Oilers have so much talent but no heart and soul. Buffalo Sabres are now 7 points head of both teams, which puts doubt in their supposed tanking to draft Connor McDavid.