It would be really difficult to not be happy with this past week for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They completed a perfect road trip by beating the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes and then got the best player in the world — Sidney Crosby — back in the lineup and completely dominated a hapless Minnesota Wild team. They did lose to the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, but they were due for a tough game and the Bruins are a great home team and were coming into the game having been called out and challenged for two days about how soft they are (which is absurd). That was always going to be a tough game. Even with it, if you collect six out of eight points every week you are going to be the best team ever.
So what else is happening with the Penguins? It is time for our weekly Penguins stock report.
Here we go.
Who Is Hot
Sidney Crosby with his new linemates — The Penguins answered the “who is Crosby going to play with?” question by putting him between Jared McCann and Dominik Simon and it produced immediate results. The line was outstanding on Tuesday against the Wild with Crosby recording four points, including a highlight reel assist where he did the hockey equivalent of dunking on the Wild. McCann has busted out of his little goal scoring slump and has scored in three of the team’s past four games (including a game-winning goal in Vegas), while he and Simon teamed up with John Marino for a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal. That line looks like it has some potential, as do all of the new line combinations.
Evgeni Malkin — Thought he had a tough game in Boston, but that is going to happen sometimes. Lot of people had a tough game in Boston. But the games before that? He was going beast mode on everybody and had multiple points in three consecutive games. He is now the team leader in scoring and on a 114-point pace over 82 games. He has been held without a point in just eight games this season, has at least two points in 14 games, and at least three points in five games. You knew he was going to be motivated this season and there are few players in the NHL better than a motivated Malkin with something to prove.
Bryan Rust — Still can not quite believe what we are seeing here. Yes, playing next to Malkin is helping his production. But he has played next to Malkin and Crosby in his career before and never produced like this. His current 82-game projection for this season is 47 goals and 100 points with outstanding possession numbers. Those are MVP level performances.
Who Is Not
Power Play inconsistency — The unit was great against Minnesota and seemed to be playing better in recent weeks. Then the Boston game happened. It is not just that they did not score against the Bruins, it is that they went back to looking like the incompetent unit that gives up more chances than it creates, can not get any established zone time, and just looks completely disorganized.
The road struggles in Boston — The Penguins have not won in Boston since the 2014-15 season and are just 4-9-2 there since the start of the 2011-12 season. Obviously the biggest factor there is that the Bruins are really good, are one of the best home ice teams in the league, and they win a lot of games on home ice. But the Penguins play a lot of really good teams. They win road games against a lot of really good teams. For some reason, Boston has been the exception. If the Penguins are going to win the Stanley Cup this season there is a chance they might have to beat Boston to get there (whether it be in a potential Eastern Conference Final matchup, or a Round 1 matchup if the Penguins are a Wild Card team) and that would require winning at least one game in Boston.