It is going to be really easy to get frustrated with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ current situation as injuries and overtime losses continue to build up. Disagree all you want, but I remain impressed with this team’s ability to tread water without its best players and still find a way to collect points, even if in a maddeningly frustrating manner. Even with all of the injuries, even with the lack of results as of late, they still somehow have a .636 points percentage over their past 11 games. That at is a 105-point pace over 82 games. That is really, really high.
Sure, they have done that while collecting a lot of “loser points” by losing four games in overtime, and you do not really want to rely on getting games to overtime and shootouts to collect points, but I am not sure they would have to rely on that if, you know, they had their actual roster in place for any stretch of time.
Next man up or whatever you want to call it, but the team is still hanging in there and giving themselves a chance to make noise when Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang get back (and whatever other players leave with injuries and return before then).
That pretty much sums up the story of this past week. They were right there in every game, in position to win them all, and were probably just a bounce or two away from collecting a few more points on top of the ones they did collect.
Anyway, let’s get into the Penguins’ weekly stock report.
Who Is Up
The Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust line — All three of them have been great and that line is absolutely cruising right now. These three have combined for seven goals over the past week and are doing their best to carry the offense. Malkin looks like the Malkin the Penguins need him to be, Guentzel is a stud no matter who he plays alongside, and Rust is on one of the best runs of his career where everything is going in the net for him. Crazy stat about Rust: He started last year with one goal in his first 29 games and was the focal point of some justifiably harsh criticism. Since then he has 25 goals in 54 regular season games.
Dominik Kahun — Feeling really dumb for being so down on him early in the year because he looks outstanding right now and the exact type of depth forward the Penguins needed. The production is starting to come around and he just looks like a more confident player (did you see that little between-the-legs shot he managed to get off against the Islanders on Tuesday? It wasn’t a “hey I am trying to show my skill” kind of attempt, it was literally the only thing he could do at the moment and had he scored it would have been the Penguins’ play of the year so far). He has some of the best possession and scoring chance numbers on the team and is just proving to be a really solid pick up.
Who Is Not
Overtime — What is happening here? This is four overtime losses in a row including two this week to the Islanders. I know Crosby and Letang not being there for the 3-on-3 is pretty significant, but the Penguins were outshot 6-0 in the overtimes against the Islanders, losing both games (obviously). They seem to lose every face off and give up possession right off the start, then seem completely incapable of gaining possession and maintaining it in overtime. Then once they do get possession they can not hit the net, missing three shots in Thursday’s overtime alone. There are two things you can not do in 3-on-3 hockey: You can not give up possession by losing the faceoff, and you can not miss the net if you are going to attempt a shot. Both are going to lead to problems.
The injury situation — Seriously, they just keep showing up. One player (Patric Hornqvist) returns and two more (Justin Schultz and Nick Bjugstad) are out long-term. As of Friday the group of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust, Jared McCann, Bjugstad, Hornqvist, Brian Dumoulin, and Schultz has already combined to miss 68 man-games (and still climbing) due to injury this season. It is pretty remarkable this team has managed to stay as competitive as it has.
Alex Galchenyuk — This week has been more of the same for Galchenyuk. A couple of nice passes and plays here and there, but no real actual production to show for it. He is now without a goal in 13 games and in the four games this past week managed just five shots on goal. He always has the look of a one-and-done player in Pittsburgh given the contract situation but now he has the look of a “admit the mistake and move on as quickly as possible” player. Maybe he rebounds the way Kahun has, but if it is going to happen it would be really helpful if it happened sooner rather than later.