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Pensburgh Ups and Downs: October 2017

A rollercoaster month for the back-to-back champs, who are terrible in back-to-back games.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Winnipeg Jets James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

The word of the month for the Pittsburgh Penguins in October 2017 is probably turbulent. The team endured for a fairly decent 7-5-1 record on the month, not great but not terrible.

Of course the talk of the town is how the Pens were 0-4-0 on the second day of back-to-back games, and not just 0-4 but outscored 29-7 in those games. And throw out the “best” game (a 5-4 loss) and you’re left with embarrassing losses of 10-1, 7-1 and 7-1.


If you can rinse that awful, problematic information aside, Pittsburgh was an impressive 7-1-1 the rest of the month with some bright spots. They shutout Nashville 4-0 in a Stanley Cup rematch, and defeated the Capitals on the road which is always fun.

But, overall it was a turbulent month that already sees the team dipping into injury replacements and performance replacements too now that they’re on their THIRD backup goalie already. Not ideal!

Goalies Performance Comments
Matt Murray Not sure it’s all his fault, but Murray wasn’t as sharp as Pens fans are accustomed to seeing with a .903 save % on the month. Sure the team in front of him isn’t very committed defensively (3.05 GAA) and his record is one you’ll take any month at 7-2-1, but Pittsburgh needed an anchor to help them and Murray looked human. Nothing wrong with that, but bigger things are expected by all.
Antti Niemi Niemi’s Pittsburgh Penguin career ends quickly and in ignominious fashion. 3 games, 3 losses, 7.49 GAA, .797 save %. One of the worst stat-lines in franchise history. Not that he had much help or support but Niemi couldn’t keep the puck out of the net and was quickly jettisoned on waivers.
Casey DeSmith We’re not going to kill him on getting thrown in the deep end for his first NHL game, but with an .800 save % and 2 goals allowed in 40 minutes, the first performance wasn’t too great. Seemed pretty telling the team started Murray in b-2-b’s instead of getting DeSmith in there, and just like that he was demoted.
Ian Cole Tough month for Cole after he caught a puck on 10/7 with his teeth. He’d only miss 3 games and on the month led the defense in blocked shots per game (1.9) and pitched in a goal and an assist in 10 games. Typical Ian Cole stuff.
Brian Dumoulin Dumoulin played 21:08 per game in October, which meant he was on the ice long enough to pile up a lot of minuses as the team defense wasn’t sharp (-8). Dumoulin was held without a point but defended Connor McDavid effectively. Some good, some meh, just like the whole team.
Matt Hunwick Missed the last 7 games of the month with a concussion, which is a shame since he played a little better in his final few games of the month after a rocky start.
Kris Letang It has to be remembered this is Letang’s first hockey in 8 months AND they’re still tasking him with 26 minutes a game. And with 8 points (1g+7a) he’s been good, especially on the power play. But defensively Letang’s been sloppy and making uncharacteristic mistakes and looks frustrated with a -14 in 13 games.
Olli Maatta One of the few individual success stories on the month, Maatta put up 2 goals and 6 assists in playing all 13 games, playing every bit as well in October as he has at any point in his NHL career.
Chad Ruhwedel Entering the month firmly as the #7D, Ruhwedel played the final 10 games of the month because of course the Pittsburgh defense is rarely healthy. We’re giving him stock up because he capably filled in, consistently demonstrates a nice outlet pass and the wheels didn’t fall off while he was in there (his -1 +/- is the best among any Pens defenseman)
Justin Schultz Schultz missed the last 3 games of the month after taking an elbow to the head against his old team the Oilers. His loss has been felt big time with his puck moving ability.
Zach Trotman Played the final three games of the month in forgettable fashion with only 12:47 per game. Not more than a band-aid so we’ll give a dash and hope for more health next month.
Sidney Crosby For any old player, being tied on the team in goals (5) and putting up 11 points in 13 games would be a fine month. Sid isn’t just any old player though, and he endured a frustrating October that included 28 PIMs and a -8 on the month. Much like the team, there’s room for improvement.
Jake Guentzel Close to a down arrow, Guentzel’s production underwhelmed a bit (only 3 goals and 7 points on the month) but that goes more to speak on the level of expectation he has to be on a 19 goal pace through the first month of the season. Could be a breakout coming soon.
Carl Hagelin When the Pens traded Scott Wilson this month, they mentioned wanting to see a little more production. So what does that say when Wilson (as a rookie) had similar and slightly better boxcars than the $4 million man in Hagelin? Only 1g+1a this month in 13 games and the Pens sure could use the speedy winger to add more than PK’ing these days.
Patric Hornqvist Missed the first three games of the season following summer surgery, then started off like a house of fire with 5 points (3g+2a) in his first four games played. Since then, Hornqvist has been point-less in six straight. He hasn’t found consistency at even strength, though he remains an animal on the power play.
Phil Kessel Individually, Kessel gave exactly what you love to see. A point per game (4g+9a in 13 games), plus two OT winners in two straight games on 10/24 and 10/26. It hasn’t always been a pretty or smooth month for the team or Kessel, but big picture he did his job well.
Tom Kuhnhackl It was a great month for Kuhnhackl, who solidified himself as a full-time NHLer for the Pens playing in all 13 games on the month (0g+3a) and seeing the team trade the other young 4LW option in Wilson away. Kuhnhackl’s 2:37 per game SH TOI ranks third among forwards, he’s become a valued member of the PK’ing unit.
Evgeni Malkin Geno did tie for the team lead on the month in both goals (5) and points (13), so I could hear arguments for an up arrow. Digging in, it didn’t feel like an up month for Malkin, though. He only scored 2 ES goals and as a -6 he was on the ice for a lot more bad than good, meaning he’s got more to give and improve within his performance.
Greg McKegg In a sense, it was a victory to stay in the lineup all month for McKegg. He scored 3 points (1g+2a) in 13 games, but none in the last seven. His faceoffs were fine, going an even 50.0% in October. McKegg adds some speed. Will be interesting to see how he’s used when Rowney is back.
Ryan Reaves If you like Ryan Reaves, you were probably satisfied by his month alone with his performance on 10/7 with his 1 plus 2 fights, first star of the game. Despite low ice time, Reaves also led the Pens in hits on the month (36), and as expected in penalty minutes too (57). If you don’t like Reaves, you’re not impressed. Overall, this will probably continue all season.
Carter Rowney Rowney was injured and missed the final four games of October. He was decent enough in his role as a 4 th liner recording 2 points (1g+1a), some PK time and that’s about it.
Bryan Rust Good month for Rust with 9 points (1g+8a) and that new-found playmaking touch to elevate himself into a deserved top-6 role for much of the month. Next challenge might be to shoot more, just 21 SOG in 13 games (1.61 per) which is lower than last season’s 1.93 mark.
Riley Sheahan The long-rumored trade was finally completed and Sheahan joined the Pens for the last four games of the month. He had one assist in it, in his first game. Small sample but he was the second best player on the team behind Crosby in faceoffs in the month. Looks to be a fairly solid but offensively unreliable player, so we’ll see how much he can score in November.
Conor Sheary Did Sheary and Rust have a Freaky Friday body switch or something? The diminutive Sheary tied for the team lead in goals (5) but only had 1 assist in 13 games, which seems almost impossible considering the amount of time spent with Crosby. Like most on the team, his plus/minus is v bad and a sign of needing a better all-around effort.
Scott Wilson Fare thee well, Scott Wilson. He got to play the first three games of the month while Hornqvist was out, did little with it and was a healthy scratch until traded to Detroit for Sheahan. Big picture, this is probably a good thing for his career, but for fans it’s sad to lose another piece of the recent championship teams.

Moving forward in November, the team only (only?) has 3 back-to-back situations, including one right off the bat Nov 1+2 in Edmonton and Calgary. The Pens will have to be road warriors as 5 of the first 6 games of the month are away from PPG Paints Arena, as is 7 of the 13 total games.

As a reward for surviving the Western Canadian trip of three games in four days (the aforementioned Nov 1+2 games and Vancouver on the 4th) the Pens get a bit of rest and a favorable schedule in the middle of the month, playing only 4 games in an 11 day stretch from November 5 - 15.