The Pittsburgh Penguins won just one of their three games this past week, but that one win was probably their best and most impressive of the season.
Playing without seven regulars in their lineup (as well as their backup goalie), against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues who were riding a four-game winning streak entering the game. No one would have blamed the Penguins if they lost that game given the circumstances, and honestly, it probably should have been somewhat expected. Not for this team, though. They completely dominated the Blues in a thorough and convincing 3-0 win to pick up two huge points in the standings.
The injury situation reached its most absurd point this week with Bryan Rust, Patric Hornqvist, and Brian Dumoulin joining the perpetually growing list.
Things are starting to look a little better on that front with Rust and Justin Schultz looking like they could return on Friday night against the (first place!) Arizona Coyotes.
They will be welcome additions. For now, it is time to take a look at our weekly Penguins’ stock report.
Who Is Up
Stefan Noesen — I just want to give him credit for jumping into a makeshift lineup, going right to the second line, and then scoring a huge goal in Wednesday’s win over the Blues in his first game with the team. His addition to the roster was, quite literally, an act of desperation to put together a full NHL lineup because of the injury situation and he just stepped right in like it was nothing and started to contribute. That has pretty much been the story of this team this season. Next man up. Somebody make a play. Keep finding ways to get points.
Tristan Jarry — Wow was he good on Wednesday. The Penguins did a really good job defensively in that game and didn’t give up many odd-man rushes or prime scoring chances, but when they did Jarry made every save look effortless and easy. He was also a rock on a suddenly slumping penalty killing unit to help them go four-for-four on the night. Among goalies with at least 10 appearances this season, his .936 save percentage is the best in the NHL. The Penguins have won five of his past six decisions.
John Marino — He is becoming a regular in this section, but how can he not be? It is just a shame for him that his rookie season is taking place the same year as Cale Makar because otherwise he might have been able to get some serious rookie of the year consideration. With three top-six defensemen out of the lineup on Wednesday, he had to play 24 minutes and did so pretty flawlessly. It is no a stretch to say that he has significantly transformed the Penguins’ defense this season.
Who Is Not
Matt Murray — It has been nearly one full month (November 9) and six starts since Murray has won a decision, while his save percentage during that stretch has dipped all the way down to an almost unimaginable .852 mark. I don’t know what the issue is here, but it is starting to become a concern. He had a slow start to the 2018-19 season before getting hot around this time. But his early struggles last year could at least be explained away by an injury that was holding him back, and once he recovered from that played some of the best hockey of his career. We don’t know of any injury right now.
Dominik Simon — Poor Dominik. I remain a vocal member of Team Simon. I still think he is one of the best passers on the team. The organizational narrative of him “doing little things” on his line to help drive play is legit. He is a good hockey player. He just can not score goals, and at no point has that become more laughably absurd than Wednesday’s game against the Blues where he had about six scoring chances and ended up missing in increasingly comical (and frustrating ways). He prematurely celebrated a goal that looked like it was going straight in the net, until the shot hit Colton Parayko in the butt. In the first period he made a great move to swoop in alone and appeared to have Jordan Binnington beat, only to have the puck go off the side of the net. In the second period Evgeni Malkin set him up for a wide open look on a behind-the-back pass only to have Binnington just barely get a piece of his shot to send it wide. We will be arguing about this guy 40 years after his final game with the Penguins.
Alex Galchenyuk — He scored a HUGE goal against the Blues, but that does not outweigh this unavoidable fact — even with the Penguins’ current injury situation, and even with them having to sign Noesen and play him anywhere in their lineup, Galchenyuk has played less than 10 minutes in three of the team’s past four games and been mostly limited to fourth-line duty. He also had the general manager come out this week and say that when everyone is healthy at forward he might be the odd man out of the lineup. Not great signs!