Sooner or later a stretch like this was going to happen.
No matter how well the Pittsburgh Penguins played or what they did, the injury list and makeshift roster was going to run out of luck, go cold, and lose some games, especially as the competition around them became tougher.
It’s one thing to beat Dallas, Minnesota, and Winnipeg with half of your forward lineup sitting on the injured list. It is quite another to have to try and beat Vegas and Tampa Bay. This is not meant to be a criticism of the players that were out there, because like I said on Wednesday I do not really have a problem with the way they have played. But a lot of these players simply have limitations on how much they can do in the NHL, and especially against elite teams. Sometimes you play well and lose. Shit happens.
So even though it was a frustrating week for the Penguins on the scoreboard and in the standings I’m not really sure what to read into it.
Who Is Up
Tristan Jarry — Entering this season I had no idea what to expect from Jarry. He never really seemed to stand out but people that know a thing or two about goalies seemed to like him and his potential. It seemed like his spot on the opening night roster was more due to salary cap ramifications than anything else, but it’s worked out wonderfully so far. While Casey DeSmith is struggling in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Jarry has been tremendous in his first three starts this season, including each of his starts this week even if they both resulted in a loss. He nearly matched Marc-Andre Fleury save-for-save against Vegas, only to be victimized when Jack Johnson inexplicably skated behind his own net on a penalty kill to leave Paul Stastny unaccounted for in the right circle. In his next start he was probably the only reason they even had a chance against a Tampa Bay team that carried the play almost the entire night. It is only three starts but a .939 save percentage is a great place to build from. He deserved better in the win column this week.
Patric Hornqvist — I can’t remember which game (I think it was after the Vegas game) I made a comment on Twitter that it was good to see Hornqvist scoring a few more goals, but that he still didn’t seem to be fully back and that he wasn’t standing out. Someone responded that even at his best he never stood out, which is a damn fair point. And on a team that isn’t scoring a ton of goals there is still something to be said for someone that is scoring goals, and Hornqvist has. So maybe my knee-jerk reaction after a game was misplaced. He does have four points (two goals, two assists) in the past four games and more shots on goal (17) than any other player during that stretch. So maybe I was wrong. It has happened before.
Finally some good injury news — Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad are back at practice and Alex Galchenyuk was on the ice today and, honestly, that is a welcome sight.
Who Is Not
The Justin Schultz-Marcus Pettersson pairing — I like the idea of this pairing, and in general I think it has been good this season and can be good. But am not sure they had a great week. They spent the entire night against Tampa Bay pinned in their own zone defending and getting caved on the shot chart, but here is the more concerning thing — they are not generating any offense. Just look at the four games this week. In 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time this duo started the majority of its shifts in the offensive zone, and still finished in the red in shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances, while the team managed just one goal with them on the ice. Not giving up on this pairing by any means, just pointing out they had a tough week. It seems the coaching staff may agree since they were split up at practice on Friday, with Pettersson skating next to Gudbranson and Schultz skating next to Johnson.
The power play — They have not had a ton of opportunities recently (only one each in both Florida games), but anytime you go 0-for-the-week it is not a great thing, especially when you lose a bunch of games that were there for the taking with an extra goal. The Vegas game is the one where this unit seemed to miss a chance, getting blanked on three consecutive attempts in the third period of what was still a 1-0 game.