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Trending Penguins Players: Getting ready for the real deal

It is Friday, the playoffs are beginning this weekend, and that means it is time to check back in with the Trending Penguins Players.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

We are through Phase 3 of the NHL’s restart, we have our exhibition game from Phase 4 in the books, and the real thing — the Stanley Cup Playoffs — is getting ready to begin this weekend.

With all of that in mind we are going to get back into our regular Friday routine and take our latest look at the Penguins’ trending players for the week as we continue to get ready for the play-in round series against the Montreal Canadiens.

Let’s take a look at which Penguins players are on the rise, and which Penguins players are not.

Trending Up

Jake Guentzel’s return. One thing the four-month season pause did for the Penguins is it allowed them get something we have not really seen this season — a fully healthy roster. The most important development in that regard is the return of star winger Jake Guentzel. He was on another 40 goal pace before he was sidelined in late December and has not only developed into the perfect winger for Sidney Crosby, he is now one of the best top-line wingers in the entire NHL. Getting him back for the start of the playoffs now is a massive addition. He had an assist in 18 minutes of ice-time on Tuesday.

John Marino is still a beast. We have only seen him for part of one season at this point but he looks like he is going to be a cornerstone player on the blue line for the foreseeable future. By all accounts he looked great in training camp and I thought he he played a very strong game against the Philadelphia Flyers, breaking up some plays and starting the rush out of the defensive zone to help get the play moving to set up Conor Sheary’s opening goal. It was a smooth outlet pass to Guentzel, hitting him right in stride to create the odd-man rush that resulted in the goal. It is crazy how much of an impact he has made this season. Nobody could have possibly expected that when he was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers one year ago.

Jason Zucker is going to be a great fit. With Guentzel back in the lineup, Bryan Rust having an All-Star season, and Zucker acquired from the Minnesota Wild the Penguins now have some serious impact talent on the wings for each of their top two centers. Zucker scored a game-tying goal late in the third period against Philadelphia and is going to be a great fit alongside Evgeni Malkin and Rust on the second line. He brings a ton of speed to the Penguins lineup and is a slam dunk lock for at least 20 goals (and maybe more) every year. He looked great before the season pause and had a strong effort on Tuesday.

Trending Down

The Power Play. This was the most maddening part of the Penguins season because of the stunning level of inconsistency. It is not that the unit was bad overall. It was just that it would get stuck in a rut where it looked completely helpless. The type of performance that would not only result in a missed opportunity, but that would completely ruin any momentum the team may have had going. Given the talent at their disposal it should never be THAT bad. Sometimes it is. They went 0-for-3 on Tuesday

How healthy is Sidney Crosby? Probably the only question and concern that I have right now going into the series against Montreal. He missed a few practices for undisclosed reasons (league policy) but was able to return for the exhibition game. There was obviously something bothering him to keep him off the ice for a few days, and the last thing you want to see right now is your captain and best player not being 100 percent. Especially when injuries were the single biggest reoccurring issue this season and you finally have your roster looking the way it was intended to look.

The goalie question. I do not think either goalie played poorly on Tuesday, and I suspect that Matt Murray is going to be the starter on Saturday when the playoffs begin. But that question of who will start, who should start, and how long of a leash will they get once they do start is still going to be lingering and it seems like it is going to be an issue every time a goal gets scored against the Penguins. I am not sure that the Penguins are going to find themselves in a position where they need their goalies to steal a series for them to have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. They just need them to not lose it.