Even with the disappointing result in Colorado on Wednesday night, it was still a mostly successful week for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
They finally got some depth goal scoring, started to pile up some much-needed points in the standings, won a couple of tough games against good teams (including an outstanding win in Winnipeg), and are starting to put themselves in a position to where they might be able to start making a real climb back toward a playoff position, especially if they can feast on an upcoming schedule that does not really include a who’s who of the NHL’s elite teams.
Who stood out this week? A lot of the usual players. This is Trending Penguins Players.
Sidney Crosby — It has been the Sidney Crosby show ever since he returned from his injury, and this past week might have been some of his best hockey of the season. He had two assists in the Penguins’ win over Columbus, scored yet another incredible backhand goal in the come-from-behind win against the Winnipeg Jets, and single-handedly brought his team back against Colorado with a natural hat trick. That is four goals and two assists on the week, while also pushing the pace of play to the tune of a 64 percent Corsi Percentage and a 64 percent of the share of scoring chances at even-strength. For the season he is up to a 1.33 points per game average, which would be his highest mark the 2012-13 season when he averaged 1.56 points per game in a shortened season.
Jake Guentzel — His hat trick against the Columbus Blue Jackets temporarily gave him the team lead in goals until Sidney Crosby overtook him with his hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche. Maybe you disagree, but this season from Guentzel kind of feels a little bit like the 2017-18 season. He has stretches where he really does not stand out or produce much, and then a stretch where he goes off for like eight goals in four games. I don’t say that as a criticism, either, because that is how most big-time goal-scorers work. It just seems like you kind of forget about him for a few games and then ... there he is, scoring a lot of goals. In the end, my opinion of Guentzel has not really changed much from the start of the season — I still don’t know just quite how good he is independent of Crosby. But you know what? There is something to be said for being able to play on that top line and still produce. Not everyone can do that. And if he can do it and keep scoring goals, and finishing those plays, more power to him.
Kris Letang — Still the team’s best player from the start this season, and he was especially dominant this past week. How dominant? In his 89 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time the Penguins outscored their opponents by a 6-3 margin, had a 104-71 edge (59 percent) in shot attempts, a 45-26 advantage in scoring chances (63 percent), and a 16-7 edge (nearly 70 percent) in high-danger scoring chances. His game against Columbus was especially outstanding.
Bryan Rust — This has just been a brutal season for Bryan Rust because he can not buy a goal, or a point, or pretty much anything right now. He has just five total points (and only one goal) on the season, and two of those points came in a 9-1 win in Calgary. He has gone 16 games without a goal and has just two assists and 24 shots on goal since then. This past week has been especially rough as he was near the bottom of the team in shot attempt and scoring chance differential, was a minus-two, and managed just four shots on goal. He may never be a big offensive weapon and may excel in a lot of other areas, but they need more offense than this.
The Goalies (sort of) — Tristan Jarry played great in Boston and helped the team at least collect a point, and Casey DeSmith was solid enough against the Blue Jackets. But there have been some soooooooft goals finding the back of the net this week. It almost cost them against Winnipeg and it kind of did cost them against Colorado. For all of the questions I have about the other parts of the roster, this is the one that is potentially most damaging to the season. We still don’t know what to expect from Matt Murray, I still don’t know if I fully believe in Casey DeSmith and think he has a big regression coming very shortly (assuming it has not already started), and Jarry is a big mystery.
(Shot attempt and scoring chance data via Natural Stat Trick)