It was an extremely busy, and most importantly, a successful week for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With five games in seven days, the Penguins put together a 4-1-0 mark to, as of Friday, climb back to a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division. The game against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night was a bit of a letdown given their strong start and the way they let it slip away in the second period. But everything else around that game was everything the Penguins could have hoped for with wins over the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, and Minnesota Wild.
Let’s take a look at the individual players that stood out this week and the ones that did not in Trending Penguins Players.
Who Is Up
Bryan Rust — The 2018-19 season for Bryan Rust is a lesson in regression to the mean and the streakiness of NHL players when it comes to their production. This has been a hill I have shouted from for years now, but no player in the league is consistent in their production. Effort is consistent, the way a player plays is consistent, but their production never is. They have hot and cold streaks, they have stretches where nothing goes in, they have stretches where everything goes. For the great players, the cold streaks are usually around five games or six games. For the lesser players, they can be a bit more drastic. That is kind of what happened to Bryan Rust over the first 29 games of the season when he scored just a single goal. It was only a matter of time until that luck changed a bit, and now he has eight goals in his past six games, including five this week. He scored both goals in the Penguins’ 2-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night and is suddenly on a goals-per-game pace (0.26) that matches his previous career high. Sports are weird sometimes.
The Goalies — They are both getting playing time and they are both making the most of it. Matt Murray has a .945 save percentage in his first two games back in the lineup, while Casey DeSmith, fresh off a 39-save effort on Thursday, has the exact same mark over his three starts this past week. Needless to say, you can win with that level of goaltending. You can win a lot.
Zach Aston-Reese — His best performance was definitely the game against the Boston Bruins on Friday when he had two goals and an assist, but overall I’ve liked his game over the past week. He’s created chances, he’s played solid minutes, it’s been by far his best stretch of the 2018-19 season to this point.
Kris Letang — There is not much else to say about him at this point that has not already been said. His game against Washington on Wednesday night should be on his Norris Trophy highlight reel. He is among the top defenders in every category from minutes, to total points, to shot attempt share, to scoring chance differential, to high-danger scoring chances. He is dominating every single night.
Who Is Not
Derick Brassard — As I wrote about a week ago, every piece of objective evidence on a team level points to this trade doing exactly what it was supposed to do. I still believe that. But he just has not been very impactful individually, and that is especially true this week with under 14 minutes of ice-time per game, zero points, and only a 42.9 shot attempt share.
Jamie Oleksiak and Olli Maatta — I feel bad including Oleksiak in the “who is not” section because of the way his week ended, but even before that things were once again not going well for the Penguins’ second defense pairing. They have the two worst possession numbers on the team over the past week (Oleksiak with a team-worst 33.8 percent, Maatta just ahead of him at 38.2) and have been absolutely crushed when it comes to scoring chances and high-danger chances. Oleksiak, for example, was on the ice for only five high-danger chances for and 16 against ... that is a 23.8 percent mark. That is rough.
Tanner Pearson — Overall I have liked what Tanner Pearson has brought to the Penguins. He has certainly been an upgrade over what Carl Hagelin was giving them. This past week, however, was probably his slowest week since the trade. It happens.