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Pensburgh Ups and Downs: January 2017

New month and a new look at who's going up, and who is going down

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The Penguins endured a meandering January. There were periods of great inactivity; their "bye week" started the month for the first week, followed by a 4-day All-Star break. Other than those 11 days, the team just had 11 games jammed into the 20 other days of the month.

And those games were a roller coaster, there were blowout wins (6-2 vs TB on 1/8, 7-1 @CAR on 1/20, 5-1 vs BOS 1/22), a three game losing streak, an 8-7 OT barn burner, you name it.

At 6-5-0, January wasn't a month to remember for the Pens, they suffered more injuries and trudge along, hoping to have a more consistent and healthy month of February. (Also for the purposes of below, not taking into account last night's OT win against 'Lumbus.)

Past 2016-17 Ups and Downs:

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 Played three of the month's first four games, then was stapled to the bench for the rest of the month. Fleury wasn't sharp in his last two games of January (allowing 10 goals on 63 shots) and his standing with the team is apparent with every passing game that he doesn't play. Now the only question with the goalie situation has become will the Pens trade him before the March 1st deadline?
Matt Murray Recovered from injury and placed a stranglehold on the starting job, even though his monthly stats were his worst in GAA (2.88) and save % (.911) of the season to date. A 5-3-0 record isn't bad, but Murray could probably stand to do a little more.
Ian Cole Pedestrian boxcar stats (1g+2a) but Cole was a +5 on the month, and his 21:29 played in the 11 games ranked 2nd among all Pens defensemen. In a month that the blueline was ravaged with injuries, Cole was an effective and badly needed player.
Trevor Daley Decent enough stats (2g+3a) plus 21:00 minutes played and a blueline high 26 shots on goal. Daley's played well offensively but has been inconsistent without the puck.
Brian Dumoulin Recovered from the broken jaw and played in the last 3 games of the month, so the old gentleman's dash.
Kris Letang A second gentleman's dash since he missed more games (6) with an injury than he played (5), and had but 2g+0a in the games he did play.
Olli Maatta Maatta's meandering season continues, not much offense as usual (1g+2a in 11 games) his TOI wasn't all that much despite having first pair injuries
Steve Oleksy Got just 3 NHL games this month, looking exposed at the highest level and was sent back down to the minors for his first AHL game since November 6th. Looks like Oleksy's stint as an NHL Penguin is over for now.
Chad Ruhwedel Played 6 of the 11 games on the month and the blueline is healthy and Ruhwedel remains in Pittsburgh cashing NHL checks as the team's 7th defenseman right now.
Justin Schultz Schultz continues his tour de force 2016-17 season, maintaining a point per game level in January (1g+10a in 11 games) and his 22:09 per game led all defensemen.Is Justin Schultz a first pairing guy at this point? He sure was, and was pretty good at it in January.
Nick Bonino Just 3 points in January, only 1 of them a goal. Bonino's getting prime minutes and linemates but hasn't been a consistent point producer this season.
Sidney Crosby Sid's quest continues, 14 points (2g+12a) in the month of January. The league's leading goal-scorer might not be that for much longer with only those 2 goals though, if there's any nit to pick with Crosby's always excellent play. Nice to see others finishing his great passes though.
Matt Cullen A broken foot blocking a shot on 1/16 cost the 40 year old Cullen his first time missed as a Penguin.
Eric Fehr Cullen's injury meant the chance for Fehr to get more playing time, and he scored 2 goals and added an assist and played effectively as the 4th line center. Fehr's not a perfect fit for this team's strategy, but the big guy keeps chugging along, can't knock the effort.
Jake Guentzel Guentzel got 7 games in January and while he didn't blow anyone way his scoring (just 1g+2a) but perhaps more importantly he's done enough with his play to stay in the lineup at least for the time being.
Carl Hagelin Hags' January production was identical to his buddy Bonino (1g+2a in 11 games). That's not a good thing in this case.
Patric Hornqvist Hornqvist's 5 goals in the month were 3rd on the team, and 8 points in 11 games was enough to get the tough winger back up on the first line. Solid month for secondary scoring.
Phil Kessel Pretty decent month of scoring 9 points in 11 games (3g+6a) but one encouraging storyline is shots on goal. The coaches have wanted Kessel to shoot more, and he's starting to oblige his 34 January SOG led the team.
Tom Kuhnhackl 3 games played, 8 games healthy scratched. Worse, on ice for 0 GF, 2 GA and took 2 minor penalties in just those three games. Kuhnhackl's worked down into pretty much an afterthought at this point. Will he get a chance to recoup his role again in the spring as a lineup fixture? Seems uncertain with a guy like Wilson passing him up in the favor of the coaching staff.
Chris Kunitz Kunitz has flourished in a 4th line role, scoring 3 goals and 2 assists on the month. Those 3 goals matched his total from Oct-Dec. Sometimes less is more.
Evgeni Malkin Malkin was off to a great start on the month (6g+5a) before getting injured in the 9th game and missing his first time of the season. A shame, since he was right there with Crosby and Connor McDavid in the NHL scoring race and this injury might cost him a chance at another scoring title at the end of the year.
Bryan Rust Rust had decent stats on a month he spent the majority of on the Crosby line (2g+6a). However, of question only 14 shots on goal. For a guy known to shoot a lot (and carry a high scoring percentage), but you can't score if you don't shoot and Rust didn't get a lot of pucks on net and perhaps not coincidentally he's no longer on the Crosby line entering February.
Conor Sheary Sheary was so good, leading the Pens in goals in January (8) and his 13 points were up there. He was the 1st NHL star of the week, which means he gets an up arrow even though he's currently hurt and will likely miss all of February.
Scott Wilson His 5 points (1g+4a) from the 4th line on the month were more than some more established players like the H and B in HBK. Wilson's settling in as a nice cog on the line.