It is time for another look at the weekly Pittsburgh Penguins stock report.
While they were not able to get the win on Tuesday night in Philadelphia, they still won two out of three games this week and go to the All-Star break and bye week sitting just four points back of the Washington Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division (with several games against them starting very shortly here) and four points ahead of the New York Islanders for second place in the division and home-ice advantage in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The players player well this week include starting goalie Matt Murray, the two superstar centers (Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin) and of course Bryan Rust.
We take a look at them and more in this week’s Penguins’ Stock Report.
Here are the players that are standing out right now.
Who Is Hot
Matt Murray — Maybe this is where it begins. After a tough start to the 2018-19 season, Murray started to get back on track around mid-December and played the remainder of the season as one of the league’s best goalies, finishing in the top-10 (or close to it) in most categories. He is very quietly starting to do that again. He has now won six of his past seven starts, and since the start of January is 4-0-0 with a .929 save percentage. There are moments where he still looks a little off (during the Boston game in particular he seemed to struggle more on some of the early shots that did not go in than the ones that actually did go in) but the bottom line is he is starting to make saves again, especially in big moments. That is a good starting point and it seems he is beginning to make his case to regain the starting goaltender job for the Penguins.
Sidney Crosby — He has, quite simply, been everything you want and expect Sidney Crosby to be. He has eight points in his first five games back in the lineup since returning from injury, and even more than the point totals is simply the way he is taking over games. He may not have had a huge game on the stat sheet against Boston, but I thought he dominated the game and made one of the biggest plays of the game early in the second period when he set up Teddy Blueger with a ridiculous between-the-legs pass. He also had that big game-winning goal in overtime against Detroit.
Evgeni Malkin — Like Crosby he did not put up any sort of dominant numbers against Boston, but I saw enough from him in that game to know he is on top of his game right now. The big sign with Malkin is when he is forcing turnovers and playing well away from the puck, and I saw plenty of that against Boston. That play he made on Charlie McAvoy to set up the game-winning goal was also significant. That is exactly what you want to see from a body-check (separate opponent from the puck, regain possession of the puck for yourself) and then he went and made that pass to set up Bryan Rust for the goal.
Bryan Rust — Just can not say enough good things about his season. This week included a huge power play goal in Detroit to get the team going when it was struggling, and the aforementioned game-winning goal against Boston.
Who Is Not
Patric Hornqvist — Just not sure what to make of his season. The goal numbers are good overall, you love the effort, he always tries to get the team going, but something just looks off with him with the puck. He has never really been a highly skilled player or had much finesse to his game, but the puck just seems to be bouncing off of him lately. He is currently on a five-game goal drought.
Tristan Jarry — He has not played bad. He has simply cooled off, and it was going to happen eventually. He has a .907 save percentage in January, and while that is still around the league average it is still a pretty noticeable drop from the months that preceded it. The Penguins are going to need both goalies in the second half, but his little cold streak is coming at the same time as Matt Murray’s recent surge. It is a goalie tandem league these days and the Penguins still have what should be an outstanding one. Jarry has just been going through his first little slump of the season. The All-Star break and bye week might do him well right now. Both goalies will play, but right now the goalie job seems to be shifting back toward Murray.
The Power Play in Philadelphia — Not to be too harsh here, because they did score a huge goal in Detroit and they only had one real opportunity against Boston, but the sluggish, can not do anything right, power play made its appearance in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. That pretty much turned out to be one of the difference makers in the game.