This was a pretty lackluster week for the Penguins that included two more two-goal deficits in as many games, another major injury (Sidney Crosby), and more power play struggles. Even with three (correction) out of a possible four points against the Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers things probably could have gone a little better.
That means it is a tough week for the Penguins’ stock report because there was not much positive going on this week.
Who Is Up
The penalty kill — Just want to give this group even more praise (wrote about them on Wednesday) because they really have been outstanding, not only this past week, but for the entire season. They are one of the best units in the league across the board, limiting chances, shots, and goals. With the offense knocked down a few pegs by injuries and a dreadful powerplay the Penguins need every advantage they can get elsehwere on the ice, and the penalty kill is providing a huge boost.
John Marino — I really want to just give him some props for that pass he made to Bryan Rust in the third period of the Chicago game to set up the game-tying goal. He displayed incredible patience and awareness in the offensive zone, froze everyone in white, and then made a beautiful pass to set up Rust for a huge goal. He continues to be a pleasant surprise on the blue line, is stepping up in a big way in the absence of Kris Letang, and has been a great find by the Penguins’ front office and scouting staff.
Jared McCann — With Crosby sidelined for more than a month that is going to put even more pressure on the depth players like McCann to produce. He had a big week with the shootout winner against the Blackhawks and then finally — FINALLY!!!!!! — breaking the Penguins’ power play goal drought in New York to help them at least secure a point in a game where they probably did not play their best.
Who Is Not
The Power Play — Even when they finally scored a goal it was not even the result of a particularly good sequence. It was a broken play off of a turnover where the puck just happened to bounce right to McCann in the right spot for a quick shot. They still can not gain entry to the zone, they can not get set up, they just do not seem to present any real threat to an opposing penalty kill or goaltending. It is beyond words how bad this unit looks right now.
Alex Galchenyuk — This is the big elephant in the room here, is it not? This was the Penguins’ key offseason acquisition as part of their biggest offseason trade. This is the player that was supposed to be a solution in the top-six and fill some pretty big shoes offensively. So far there really has not been much. He has shown flashes of maybe being on the verge of a breakout, but has also had stretches where he has been a complete non-factor, and the stat line backs that up. With his contract expiring after this season and the Penguins’ salary cap situation being what it is he always seemed to have the potential to be a one-and-done player in Pittsburgh, but if he does not turn things around quickly he may not even get to the one.
Having said that, I am not ready to completely give up on him just yet because the circumstances have not been ideal.
He is still working his way back from a fairly significant injury (and maybe a spider bite?!) and is still trying to get adjusted to a new team, a new system, and new linemates.
He has also had some very close misses, including a shot off the post and a couple of prime chances that just happened to get stopped. Maybe if one or two of those end up in the back of the net we are looking at him a little differently right now, Plus, while his career has been defined by inconsistency he does at least have a track record of being, at the very least, a 20-goal, 50-point player. There is no reason to think he is going to suddenly stop doing that over a full season. They just need him to get going and get back to that level. Sooner rather than later would be preferable.
The injury situation — Come on now. Stop it. This is ridiculous.