It was a short week for the Pittsburgh Penguins with only two games, but they still managed to stay on a roll around the holiday break and extended their winning streak to four games with a 3-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes and a 5-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
They kept pace with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the race for the second spot in the Metropolitan Division, have put some space between themselves and the pack when it comes to the Wild Card race, and overall are 12-4-3- in their past 19 games.
They might be back on track.
Let’s take a look at who is up and who is not in this week’s edition of Trending Penguins Players.
Who Is Up
Sidney Crosby — The captain didn’t score a goal in either of the Penguins’ past two games but he did record five — five! — assists, including the primary assist on all three of the Penguins’ goals in Carolina. Overall for the season he is on a 103-point pace over 82 games. He has not topped 100 points in a season since the 2013-14 season, which was also his most recent scoring title.
Jake Guentzel — A two-goal game before the break and a brand new five-year, $30 million contract extension coming out of the break. Hard to have a better week than that if you are Jake Guentzel. I still think there are legitimate questions as to how much he would produce away from Crosby, but the two work well together and the connection is rolling along. If it works, it works. Keep it together and let it take you as far as it can.
Phil Kessel — He was a force on Thursday night in the Penguins’ 5-2 win over the Red Wings, with a pair of goals and an assist. The fact he is on pace for close to 90 points again (on an 88-point pace at the moment) is not getting enough attention.
Matt Murray — Is it possible that his early struggles really were related to an injury? He stopped 66 out of 68 shots in the Penguins’ two games this past week and in his first four games since returning to the lineup has a .957 save percentage with a shutout and a huge performance in Washington against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. That is all a great sign.
Who Is Not
Evgeni Malkin — Big picture I am not worried about Evgeni Malkin, but he has been especially sloppy recently. That turnover against Detroit on Thursday night that resulted in the Red Wings’ second goal is something we have seen far too often lately. It has not always resulted in a goal again, but definitely a lot of chances. That could have been a game-changing play on Thursday night.
Dominik Simon — Not a great week for Simon statistically as he did not record a point, was sub-50 percent in the possession department, and was the only player on the roster to finish as a minus during a week when the Penguins outscored their opponents by a 6-2 margin at even-strength. Overall he has not scored a goal in 14 games (with only 17 shots on goal during that stretch ... and on most nights either getting zero or one) and has just three assists during that stretch. He has failed to record a point in five consecutive games.