With the 2019-20 NHL regular season approaching the halfway point the Pittsburgh Penguins still have around $30 million in salary cap space out of the lineup and are still collecting points and winning games with the best teams in the league.
Entering play on Friday the have the seventh-best points percentage in the NHL (fifth in the Eastern Conference), the fifth-best goal differential (fourth best in the Eastern Conference), and are one of the best defensive teams in the league. They are Stanley Cup contenders right now with the best player in the world getting ready to return to the lineup.
It is all a testament to how good the coaching staff is that they keep winning they way they are, but also to how good of a roster Jim Rutherford and his front office has built here.
Right now it is Bryan Rust, Tristan Jarry, and John Marino helping to lead the way as they continue to play like superstars.
They remain three of the Penguins’ best players, and we take a look at them and a few other notable performances in the newest Penguins’ Stock Report.
Who Is Up
Bryan Rust — There is not much else to say about him at this point that was not already said here on Wednesday. His overall numbers for the season are at an elite level, and in the Penguins’ past four games he has had a hand seven out of their 10 goals by scoring four and assisting on three others. In the two games this week alone he scored three, assisted on two, and scored the game-winning goal in the shootout against the Los Angeles Kings. He can play any role this team needs. He can also play any role extremely well.
Tristan Jarry — The Kings game may not have been his best from a numbers perspective, but he did the job in the shootout and kept the Penguins in the game in the first period in Calgary when they started slow.
John Marino — He remains one of the biggest stories for this Penguins team. The Penguins may have had high hopes for him, you may have liked his potential, but I do not think even the most optimistic super fan could have expected him to be this good, this quickly. He just keeps getting better every game. With the Penguins down to five defenders in Calgary he played 28 minutes, scored a goal, set up another, and was his usual steady self in every single phase of the game.
Kris Letang — He had a couple of defensive issues against the Kings, but overall he has been a force lately. His critics show up in huge numbers when he makes a mistake that ends up in the back of the net, but there is silence when he plays 26 or 27 minutes per night during a stretch where the Penguins are keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard. He has 24 points in 26 games for the season and eight points in the past five games.
Jack Johnson — Mostly I just want to stir the pot a little bit again. After being incredibly critical of his contract and play for the better part of the past year, it is only fair to give him credit when he plays well.
Who Is Not
Alex Galchenyuk — It simply is not working here. He has one point in 10 games, zero points in six games, and even with increased ice-time over the past few games he is still providing next to nothing offensively. He played 25 minutes in the two games this past week and recorded one shot on goal. He has recorded more than two shots on goal in a game just twice over the past month. No production at all here.
Justin Schultz’s luck — His big contract year has been a struggle, both in terms of his play on the ice and the fact he is now sidelined again with a long-term injury. He should still get a decent contract from somebody this offseason, but probably not as much as he was hoping for at the start of the season.
Dominik Simon — Even the leaders of the Dominik Simon fan club (like me) have to acknowledge his game has slipped a bit lately. The lack of goal scoring is acceptable when he is doing everything else right. Right now am not even sure he is giving the Penguins that much. He needs to be better. He really should be better. He can be better.