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Pensburgh Ups and Downs: October 2016

One month into the season we look at the individual performances for the Pittsburgh Penguins. See who gets the coveted green arrow up and who gets the dreaded red arrow down based on October play.

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An interesting month for the Penguins, who have a successful 6-2-1 record, but haven't played their best. Some of this can be attributed to injuries (Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang haven't played a game together yet) but a -2 goal differential isn't ideal.

The Penguins aren't exactly happy with the way they're winning, but it is a long season to work out bugs and gear up for the playoffs. And teams can't get to the playoffs without a successful regular season and the Pens are on that path again.

As a reminder, the criteria is sort of like the stock market. We judge on performance, relative expectations and where the player is perceived now, compared to where they were at the beginning of the season. A 4th line player could get a green arrow up, a 1st line player could get a red arrow down, and that certainly does not mean the former is a better player than the latter, just that he is living more up to the expectations of his role right now.

Goalies Performance Comments
Marc-Andre Fleury Started all 9 games of the month, and his stats aren't elite (3.09 GAA, .909 save %) but that's mainly the result of a poor defensive effort in front of him. Fleury's been great and is the driving factor why the Pens have a good 6-2-1 record.
Matt Murray Didn't play this month after breaking his thumb in late September in the World Cup of Hockey but should be back as soon as next game.
Mike Condon Got into only one game on the month as an in-game replacement, and with Murray almost back who knows if he'll get in another as a Penguin.
Ian Cole The boxcars don't jump off the page (1g+0a) but Cole is playing 19:16 per game, a key cog on the penalty kill and playing steady enough with Schultz to be deployed as a normal second pair, which is a big step up for both of them. Pretty easily the team's best and most consistent d-pairing.
Trevor Daley With Letang on the shelf for most the month, Daley's minutes have ratcheted up to 21:48 (most on defense other than #58). Two of his three points on the month came on the power play. Daley's played well, as expected, in his role so far this season.
Brian Dumoulin This might be injury related (though dinged up, Dumo hasn't missed any games) but Dumoulin has the defense's highest Goals Against/60. No points on the year yet either. Hopefully when Letang gets back, Dumoulin's fortunes improve.
Kris Letang It sucks to have the band-aid return for Letang, who left the game late against Montreal on 10/18 after being crunched from behind into the boards. The good news is his return is imminent and the team has weathered his absence with a 4-1 record in the 5 games he's been out.
Olli Maatta Probably closer to a dash than most realize, as Maatta does have the defense's best Corsi For % (55.1%) and his Goals Against/60 is 2nd best among the Pens D. However, he's playing the least ES minutes among regular players, reflective of a shrinking role and one the Pens are having to shield a little too much. Maatta has built a couple of nice, quiet games towards the end of the month, hopefully he's in the process of turning a corner.
Derrick Pouliot A tough break for Pouliot, who was a healthy scratch to start the season and finally got in the lineup on 10/20 vs SJ due to Letang's injury. Pouliot was playing pretty well before getting injured himself in the 2nd period and GM Jim Rutherford has said he's out "a while". Awful time for an injury and now he'll have to get healthy and wait for another chance to establish himself as an NHL regular.
Justin Schultz Last spring Schultz was a guy getting yanked to the bench instantly if he played the other team's top players. This October he's #1 on the defense in Corsi (tied with Maatta), the best GF% (though it is a modest 50.0%), most ES shots from the defense, and on and on. Schultz is still being used in a smart, limited way (17:48 per game) but earning those minutes with surprisingly consistent play. With 2 points (both assists) in the 9 games it's not as if he's an all-star or anything, but he's perhaps the team's most pleasant surprise in the opening month of the year.
David Warsofsky Best thing you can say about Warsofky is the coaches seem to love him. Not exactly sure why, he doesn't bring a lot to the table at the NHL level, but the diminutive defenseman doesn't make a lot of crippling mistakes either, which isn't a bad trait to have as a #8 defenseman.
Nick Bonino With Crosby out, Bonino had a chance to be a 2nd line center, with talented linemates on the HBK line. The results were disastrous, with Bonino having one of the worst Corsi's on the team (41.4%), not generating much offense (no goals and just 2 assists in the 9 games of the month) and ending up on the ice for a lot of goals against. So for now HBK line is dead and Bonino at least gets to be back in a more familiar 3rd line role with the team's centers healthy.
Sidney Crosby If you didn't know Sid suffered a concussion on October 7th, you never would have known based on the last 3 games of the month, where he scored 4 goals and added an assist. There's no such thing as a "minor" concussion, but luckily the symptoms and limitations for Crosby were relatively minor and didn't rob him of too much time.
Matt Cullen Unlike Bonino, Cullen performed very well when Crosby was out, recording 5 points in the season's first 6 Sid-less games. Cullen ended up with 7 points (2g+5a) this month, showing that he's way more valuable than the typical 4th line center. Not too many in that role could successfully hop up when needed, another great month for the ageless wonder.
Eric Fehr Scored a big goal against Florida that ended up the game winner on 10/25, but no points otherwise. Pretty steady in a 4th line/ PK role that sees him play as much as any forward on the SH unit.
Carl Hagelin Struggled mightily to get on the scoreboard, only tallying 1 goal and no assists in the month. After HBK's unbelievable spring together, some regression was bound to happen and boy did it ever for Hagelin statistically.
Patric Hornqvist Big month for Hornqvist with 8 points (3g+5a) in the 9 games, including 5 on the power play. Impressive since the Penguins weren't really good at even strength, they needed just the type of big time performance from guys like Hornqvist with the man-advantage. All 3 of Hornqvist's goals have come in 1-goal wins, and the Pens are 1-1-1 when PH72 doesn't score a point (compared with 5-1-0 when he does).
Phil Kessel Phil's leading the team in assists (6) and does have a point per game so far on the year with 9 in 9. However, interestingly enough, he has only one point at 5v5 so far, a big reason why lines have been juggled and Kessel ending up back with Malkin. Kessel's 3 PPG in October were only 1 shy of his 2015-16 total season total of PP goals, believe it or not. Not bad for a guy coming off of off-season hand surgery.
Tom Kuhnhackl 2 points (both assists) on the month, including a great effort and pass on the go-ahead goal in the 3rd period against Florida on 10/25. When Sestito doesn't play, Kuhnhackl has become the least used forward (only playing 8:41 per game in October) and no PK time, so it will be interesting to see if the forward group gets healthy if Kuhnhackl would be the odd-man out in healthy scratch land. That said, the top 12 forwards haven't been healthy for one game yet this year, so he wouldn't be missing much action regardless.
Chris Kunitz No goals but 4 assists on the month for Kunitz, who's settled in nicely as a passenger/support piece for Malkin on the 2nd line. Kunitz does have 17 shots in the nine games (4th most among forwards) but still seems to pass up scoring chances, however he's been good away from the puck highlighted with a great backchecking play against Philly on 10/29.
Evgeni Malkin As expected with Crosby out, Malkin is leading the Pens in goals (5) and points (10). He also steps up when Sid is out and this month was no different, recording at least a point in 6 out of the 9 games. What isn't so nice is he's also taken a minor penalty in 6 of the 9 games so far. Doesn't need to play harder, but might benefit from playing a little smarter. Still, even with taking the bad with the good, Malkin's been the Pens best skater in the first month of the season.
Bryan Rust Missed the first 3 games of the season due to injury, played the last six with an ugly stat-line of 0 goals, 0 assists, on ice for 1 GF and 6 GA. Not the prettiest month and Rust lost his spot with Malkin' line to be bumped down to a checking line, which probably suits his talents more anyhow.
Tom Sestito Loved by teammates and coaches, not so much by savvy fans who point out that Sestito doesn't bring a lot tangibly to the table. He's dressed for 5 games (playing only 5:32 per game) and hasn't been much of a factor for or against. Was a resounding winner in his lone fight of the month against Tom Wilson on opening night, so hey that's nice.
Conor Sheary Sheary has been out since Alex Radulov high-sticked him in the eye on 10/20. The word on the street is Sheary will see an eye doctor sometime this week and see if he can resume wearing his contact lenses and at that time he can probably resume his season. With 3 points in the first 3 games of the season (then getting hurt in the 4th) Sheary's year was off to a nice start too.
Scott Wilson Too dramatic to say that playing on a line with Crosby/Hornqvist is the type of opportunity to happen "once in a career"? Maybe, but Wilson's getting a ton of time to play with guys like Malkin and Crosby. Wilson ended the month with 4 points in the last 5 games of October after starting out with 0 points in the first 5. If he can continue the recent production, his audition will surely last longer.