The Penguins currently have four players worth $25.55 million on the salary cap on the shelf due to injuries. And it’s not just any four highly priced players, it’s Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Justin Schultz and Nick Bjugstad. Crosby was a MVP finalist last season and is inarguably one of the handful of best players in the league. Letang receives Norris votes on a regular basis and is among the league-leaders every season in ice time per game. They’re arguably the two most valuable/toughest to replace players on the team.
Evgeni Malkin can help fill the absences, though of course he has missed about half of this season with an injury of his own. Ditto Bryan Rust. And Alex Galchenyuk, though injury seemed more to derail his season than anyone else. Patric Hornqvist is back after an injury. Brian Dumoulin, luckily, only missed four games when he had his woes.
How much has all these high profile absences mattered? Perhaps a bit:
NHL top 5, points in standings lost due to injured players (Lost-ps metric, lost point shares due to injured players)— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) November 21, 2019
1 PIT 6.31 points lost
2 COL 5.02
3 VEG 3.31
4 DAL 2.80
5 ARI 2.62https://t.co/o1XsrTNZxS
This makes sense, considering the Pens’ have now a low-performing power play. Hardly a surprise given the rotating and never-ending cast of stars like Crosby, Letang, Malkin, Hornqvist and Schultz. All their top usual power play, that’s been together for a total of two periods all year long. With that in mind, it’s not a huge surprise that Pittsburgh’s power play went almost a month between goals, and the team lost a few one-goal games along the way.
A few more goals there tip the balance and add points pretty easily as a direct result to note how injuries have hindered winning hockey games.
Our Adam Gretz made a good point yesterday too:
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.
It’s not likely to get all that better soon. Letang is skating, and should be back at some point in the near future but Crosby and Bjugstad are out 5-8 weeks still. Schultz has the hazy but not optimistic “longer term” tag on him as well from the team, which usually portends to a lengthy absence.
Yet, the Pens have held afloat, including a nice effort last night against the Devils with players like Jared McCann and Dominik Kahun chipping in goals. Those two have a combined 17 goals this season. Performances like that have been very instrumental at back-filling production and stepping up at a time where the team has really needed secondary, supporting type players to help to go alongside the red hot Jake Guentzel - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust line that has been generating chances and goals in seemingly every game, if not every period.
It’ll take more work and a team effort to keep at it — Zach Aston-Reese hit a post last night and the team is still looking for Galchenyuk to step up and make a difference — but at this point they have no other choice but to hope the injury tide turns fairly soon and they bring their team together and can thrive off the tests of adversity.
The Pens have certainly left a few points in the standings out there due to the injury crush they’ve faced for important players, but they’re also sitting at 12-7-4 on the season, including a 4-1-3 mark in the last eight games. That will pile up and the adversity may prove to help them in the long run if they can continue to keep their proverbial heads above the water until guys like Crosby and Letang can get back.