This is one of those weeks for the Pittsburgh Penguins where you should be mostly satisfied with the results (four out of six points is always good, especially with wins against your biggest divisional rivals) and still realize there is room for improvement and that the process behind the results is not ideal.
The Penguins were probably fortunate to get the two wins they did get with the way they played in the third period of each game. They probably left a point on the ice in Tampa Bay.
They should not apologize for wins — and they will not — but they can still be better.
If anything, they are starting to really miss Jake Guentzel and Brian Dumoulin.
This week in the Penguins’ weekly stock update we take a look at the continued brilliance and dominance of Evgeni Malkin, as well the struggles of Justin Schultz, the power play, and the fourth line.
Who Is Hot
Evgeni Malkin — The one constant over the past three games. He has six points over the past three games and I thought he had moments of dominance against Tampa Bay. The goal was probably a little lucky, but the play he made to set up John Marino was nothing but pure skill, patience, vision and just flat out being better than the player(s) trying to stop him. Can not say enough good things about his performance this season. With 56 points in 40 games he is on a 114-point pace over 82 games. That is the second-best point per game average of his career and is right in line with what he did during the 2008-09 and 2011-12 seasons — seasons where he won the scoring title each year, the MVP (2011-12) and the Conn Smythe Trophy (2008-09). He is 33 years old.
The Goalies — The overall numbers are not going to be great, but I am willing to look past that in a small sampling of games when you look at the way the past three games have gone. They needed Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray to stand on their heads in the third period of the wins against Philadelphia and Washington, while Murray had to make some huge saves in Tampa Bay to keep it a game when the score could have gotten away from them. Do not want to see them have to rely on the goalies this much — and so far this season they have not, for the most part — but it is good to know they have two goalies that can handle it and keep them in it.
Who Is Not
Justin Schultz — I did not like Schultz’s season before the injury, and there is little I have liked since his return. Maybe this is overly harsh considering he is, after all, returning from an injury and it has only been a small handful of games, but I have some concerns about him going forward. The defense didn’t seem to miss anything when he was sidelined, and outside of one or two really good looks offensively he has only been noticeable in a bad way since returning. In the three games since his return he is rolling along with a 26 percent Corsi rating while the Penguins have been outscored 5-1 with him on the ice.
The Power Play — The Jekyll and Hyde act continues. They had a huge game against Philadelphia with a pair of goals to help swing the result in their favor. Then they went 0-for-the-afternoon in Washington and nearly cost them two important points. Then it probably did cost them at least a point in Tampa Bay with that ugly 0-for-5 night that featured one of the most miserable extended two-man advantages you will ever see. There is no one player responsible for it when it goes like this. It is everyone. The good news there is plenty of evidence to suggest you do not need a good power play to win a Stanley Cup (especially in the playoffs where penalties pretty much go away), but you would still like to see more consistency than this.
The Fourth line — They are playing about five minutes per game (or less) and not doing anything noteworthy or positive when they do play. In their four minutes on Thursday they gave up a goal and could not find the Tampa Bay end of the ice. For a team and coach that wants to roll four lines this is not ideal. You know Jim Rutherford is in the market for a top-six winger, but he is also absolutely going to do something to this line. He almost has to find someone that they can rely on for more than a couple of minutes per game.