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Pittsburgh Penguins report card

We look at which groups are playing well, and who is not in the 2015-16 season for the Pittsburgh Penguins

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Building off of yesterday's great stat recap, this could be a good time at the near quarter-pole of the 2015-16 season to grade out the Pittsburgh Penguins by position groups.

Goaltenders

The surprising backbone of the team so far. Marc-Andre Fleury's numbers have slightly fallen off over the past couple of weeks to a more reasonable (for him) .925 save % on the season, but his early start when the team was shaky might have saved some jobs and a knee-jerk trade.

Backup Jeff Zatkoff has been impressive in his own right with a .932 save % in 4 games and been sharp despite long layoffs between his game action.

Grade: A

Defense

Kris Letang has picked up Norris votes in the last 4 seasons he's been healthy, but it's been a tough go for the Pens defensive leader. He's playing a huge workload of 26:19, but not having much success at all, being on ice for an impossibly low 0.68 Goals For/60 minutes this season (from 2011-15 he was at an elite 2.98 GF/60). The problem seems to start with the fact that Letang is the only bonafide top-4 NHL defenseman on the team, even though Ben Lovejoy and Brian Dumoulin have formed an unlikely but so far capable defensive pairing.

Add in Ian Cole's shaky play with Letang, Adam Clendening stapled to the press box until an injury to Olli Maatta right as he was shaking off the rust from a long layoff, no NHL appearances from banished-to-the-minors-for-a-terrible-camp Derrick Pouliot and the Pens youth movement has been stalled.

Grade: C-

Forwards

A huge disappointment, with only 2 forwards (Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel) on pace for 20 goals 1/4 of the way through the season. Sidney Crosby is in a slump like never seen before, being held point-less in 13 of the 20 games the team has played. Chris Kunitz doesn't have an assist all season. David Perron and Patric Hornqvist were ice-cold early in the year. Russian import Sergei Plotnikov has been an after-thought.

There is some hope on the horizon,

If the Pens had 15 more goals, they would be tied-8th in the league. But they don't and are a pathetic (given the talent) 26th in the league for goals. The Penguins have the players and depth to be better, and this group certainly needs to do their job and put more pucks in the back of the net.

Grade: D-

Coaching

Plenty of decisions to Monday morning (power play) quarterback over. Starting, of course with that power play. The Pens only have 9 5v4 goals so far this season, 25th in the league. Overall the PP is 24th at 15.1%. They've juggled personnel, units, groups but unable been able to establish an identity.

18-year old Daniel Sprong has been a healthy scratch, and is only playing 9:16 a night when he does play. In the coaches eyes Rob Scuderi is still a better option than Clendening.

The coaching strategy isn't helping any players, and the process looks broken. Can they switch things up? Do they even think they need to?

Grade: C-

Management

Coaching might have gotten a better grade than expected, if only because the coach can only "cook with the groceries he's given", so to say. General manager Jim Rutherford bet big this summer on a young defense and that gamble has not yet paid off. In an effort to surround Crosby and Malkin with skill and depth, the Pens willfully had to neglect their defense in order to invest what cap-space they had to bring in forwards.

The NHL features a long season and the roster is a work in progress, but there's definitely some progress needed to round out the Penguins and make them a contender.

Grade: C-

Overall

For not playing all that well, the Penguins can be thankful this Thanksgiving that they went 12-8-0 in the first 20 games. The process wasn't great but that still puts them on pace for a 98 point season, which historically is enough to make the playoffs. Pittsburgh is also lucky that 2 other playoff contenders in the division (NY Islanders and Columbus) haven't started the season very well either, which takes a lot of pressure of the Pens, since the NY Rangers and Washington look great early.

Bottom line; great goaltending has this graded on a curve. The team would be wise to give Fleury more support in the next 20.

Grade: B