The Pittsburgh Penguins are on quite a roll right now.
After scratching out a workmanlike win against the Anaheim Ducks and absolutely crushing the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets the Penguins put together what was without a doubt their best performance of the season when they topped the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
It was impressive in every way.
Not only the way they played, almost completely shutting down the league’s best scoring line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog (by their standards the Penguins shut them down), but because they did it with an undermanned lineup whose forward lines were pieced together through call-ups and the team’s ninth defenseman.
This has to be what coach Mike Sullivan has in mind when he says playing “the right way” and it is producing a lot of early wins after a slow start.
Of course, it helps having Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on your top line to carry the team, but everyone else is doing their part, too.
Let us check in with this week’s Penguins stock report.
Who Is Up
Brandon Tanev — Every game he grows on me. I hated the contract. I laughed at the people that suggested you could hate the contract and love the player. I just did not see how this was going to work. But dammit, I think I love the player and hate the contract. He is, so far, exactly what the most optimistic expectations for him said he would be. Fast, great defensively, and causing a ton of havoc. Will he score a lot of goals or produce a lot of points? Think it is obvious he will not, but not everyone is going to be that. If he keeps shutting people down, drawing penalties, and play the way he has I am on board. Was his shorthanded overtime goal the result of some good luck? Hell yes. But it was a bounce that he probably deserved given the way he has played so far.
Sam Lafferty — Not only as he been exactly what the Penguins needed exactly when they needed it given the injury situation, but he may be doing enough to earn himself a regular spot in the lineup even when a lot of the injured regulars return. He looks like a player.
Sidney Crosby — There really is not much else to say here except this the best player in the world doing what the best player in the world does. He has put this team on his back at times this season and refused to let games slip away. He is doing everything, all over the ice. Highlight reel goals. Playmaking. Great play away from the puck. Setting the foundation for a potential MVP run this season.
Jake Guentzel — Just picking up where he left off this past season. At least one point in every game but one (the season opener), goals in four straight, and already five goals in seven games. That goal he scored on Wednesday against the Avalanche was a beauty of a shot that was only overshadowed by the absurdity of what Crosby did earlier in the game.
Who Is Not
Dominik Kahun — He still finds himself in this spot. It is not just the complete lack of production, it is the fact that you never, ever, notice him during a game in any way. Is he even on the team? He had one play against Anaheim that was really good when he blocked a shot and turned it into a breakaway only to shoot the puck off the post, but that was to this day the first — and only — time I have noticed him during a game. It has been this way since day one. Have to be honest, folks, do not see him sticking in the lineup — or on the team — when players start returning.
Erik Gudbranson — When you open the season expected to be a regular in the lineup, then find yourself as the odd-man out in the defensive rotation and have been a healthy scratch for three of the past four games that is by definition a case of your stock being down. Even when he has played this season we have seen more of the Vancouver Gudbranson than the one we saw in Pittsburgh at the end of the 2018-19 season. Would it be a surprise if he was the defender that ended up being the odd man out on the trade market?