The Pittsburgh Penguins have started off the 2016-2017 season with a 3-2-1 record and that's not bad considering that they are without Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Matt Murray, and Conor Sheary. There seems to be a lot of concern from some fans because of the way the team has played in the past few games but here are a few reasons as to why you really have no reason to be concerned about the Penguins right now.
Unfair Assessment with Injuries
This really is the biggest one. It's really unfair to judge the Penguins team right now because they're missing Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang along with Matt Murray. The Penguins always struggle with Kris Letang out of the lineup as he's their most irreplacable player and it showed against the Sharks and especially the Predators on Saturday night. The Penguins have no one to replace his minutes, his defensive work, and especially his offense since he's one of the best offensive defenseman in the NHL. He's still day-to-day according to Sullivan and when he comes back, the defensive issues should be fixed big time.
With regards to Sidney Crosby, the team always seems to play good even without him in the lineup. It's great news that he continues to skate and it looks like he may not be that far off from practicing with the team and taking contact. Pittsburgh will be able to roll back out the HBK line since it's been struggling to create chances with Crosby out. That'll force teams to look out for both Sid and Geno's lines again and we all saw how that worked out for teams in the playoffs who couldn't stop the HBK line. When this team gets healthy, then we can start to make some real assessments if they're struggling or what not.
Fleury Still Playing Solid
Over the course of Marc-Andre Fleury's career, October tends to be one of the best months of the season for him. He's started all six games for the Penguins this season and despite only having a .904 save percentage, some of the goals he's given up weren't his fault since he's been screened and had a couple bounces go the other teams' way. Fleury had his first real clunker on Saturday night as he got pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots. He had a save percentage of .783 and this type of game usually comes sooner rather then later since he's been playing each game. Fleury usually has bounce back games right after a bad game so he will definitely show up when the Penguins host the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.
Malkin Stepping Up
Evgeni Malkin always seems to elevate his game when Sidney Crosby is out of the lineup and he's done it again this season as he's tied for the team lead in points with five through six games. He's taken a couple bad penalties but he's been all over the ice each game. Even in the Nashville game on Saturday night he was flying and making good decisions and that came when both the game was still in reach and then out of reach when the Predators tacked on a couple more goals. He's been playing with Patric Hornqvist a bunch and they've had pretty good underlying numbers each time they've played together. It's great to see what Evgeni Malkin can do when he's fully healthy and let's hope it stays that way as he has a chance to have another great season.
Rest assured, the Penguins will be completely fine once they get some players back and they'll be right at the top of the standings as the season goes on.