The winning streak rolls on.
Thanks to pretty convincing wins over the St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, and New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ winning streak has reached seven games while they are now 12-2-1 in their past 15 games.
The recipe is the same as it has been. Great play from the top line, great play from Kris Letang, and perhaps even better play from the team’s two goaltenders.
All of that has the Penguins now sitting in second place in the Metropolitan Division entering play on Friday night, and just one point back of the Washington Capitals for first place in the division (the Capitals do have a game in hand entering play on Friday night).
It’s time now for our weekly look at trending Penguins players. There should be little surprise as to which ones are going in the right direction.
Who Is Up
Sidney Crosby — In the three games this week, Sidney Crosby finished with seven total points and has now recorded at least two points in five consecutive games and six of his past seven. He is simply playing at another level right now and has been one of the driving forces behind the seven-game winning streak. He is probably not going to win another scoring title in his career, but if he maintains his current pace this season he would finish with 106 points in 79 games. Only 23 players in league history have finished with at least 100 points in a season when age 31 or older. Only four (Daniel Alfredsson and Jaromir Jagr in 2005-06, and Joe Sakic and artin St. Louis in 2006-07) have done it since the 2005-06 season.
Kris Letang — He isn’t an All-Star this season (at least not yet), but the Norris Trophy campaign is really starting to heat up, and quite honestly, how could it not be? He has six points this week, including five assists. His goal on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers was a thing of beauty and almost unfair.
Matt Murray — In his two starts this week, he posted a .951 save percentage and is now 6-0-0 with a .955 save percentage since returning to the lineup. Casey DeSmith has been almost as good during that stretch (3-1-0 with a .944 save percentage), so goaltending is definitely a big positive influence for the Penguins right now no matter who is in net.
Zach Aston-Reese — When the Penguins won their two most recent Stanley Cups in 2015-16 and 2016-17, they received huge contributions from rookies. In 2015-16 it was Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Matt Murray. In 2016-17, it was Jake Guentzel. Perhaps Zach Aston-Reese can be the player to arrive on the scene this season. He is having a remarkable week with a pair of goals, a three-game point streak, and a plus-four rating as he continues to show that he belongs in the NHL.
Who Is Not
Derick Brassard — Given the way the Penguins have played of late, we really have to dig deep and nitpick to find a player or two that is not trending upward. Derick Brassard had a tough week with just a single assist, the worst possession numbers of any player on the team (30 percent on the shot attempt share), and one of only two players on the team to have a negative goal differential (minus-2 ... Tanner Pearson, at minus-1, was the only other). He was not on the ice for a single 5-on-5 goal for, while he was on for two against. Not saying he was responsible for either one, but he did not have a very impactful week. Even worse than the goal numbers? He was only a 15 percent on the scoring chance share (five for, 28 against).
Jack Johnson — I still think he is the weak link on the blue line, and even though there weren’t a lot of glaring mistakes this week that resulted in goals, it still wasn’t a particularly strong showing. He ended the week at the bottom in shot attempt share, scoring chance share, and high-danger scoring chance share among the team’s defenders. That keeps up that will usually result in more pucks ending up in the back of your own net.
(Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick)