Only two games this week for the Pittsburgh Penguins but they were two more productive games, seeing them collect three out of a possible four points to continue a surprisingly strong start given all of the absences from the lineup.
That is the good news.
The bad news is more players ended up leaving the lineup, and nobody wants to see that right now.
In this week’s Trending Penguins Players we take a look at a couple of early season bounce backs that are helping to drive the strong start.
Who Is Hot
Tristan Jarry. Credit where it is due, he has been fantastic so far this season and is doing his best to rebuild a lot of the confidence everybody lost in him during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Oddly enough I thought his best game of the season was the game the Penguins lost this week, the 2-1 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars, because he made big save after big save in that game to keep it tied and get it to overtime. You can quibble on how he played in the shootout if you want, but that was a heckuva performance from him overall in that game and he has been one of the biggest driving forces behind the 2-0-2 start. He continues that this season is going to go a lot better than anybody anticipated.
John Marino. I think sometimes too much was made of his sophomore slump. The offense dried up. But he was still pretty solid defensively and still a good player. He just looked more like a good second-pair defender than a potential first-part defender. And there is nothing wrong with that. But four games into the season he has been arguably one of the Penguins’ best players this season. He scored a goal on Wednesday, while his underlying numbers for the season are spectacular. In 70 minute of 5-on-5 hockey this season with Marino on the ice the Penguins are controlling 56 percent of the total shot attempts, 56 percent of the expected goals, 58 percent of the scoring chances, 63 percent of the high-danger scoring chances, and are outscoring teams by a 5-0 margin. That is big time stuff.
Drew O’Connor. No idea what his future is in the NHL, short-term or long-term, but he has not looked out of place at all in the NHL so far this season. He was outstanding against Chicago with a goal, an assist, and a couple of other chances, while his underlying numbers have been great in a bottom-six role. If the Penguins are going to contend this season they needed two things to happen. Tristan Jarry to be good. Some younger, unexpected players to emerge on the lower half of the lineup. Check and check so far.
Who Is Not
More people leaving the lineup. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin remain sidelined. Jake Guentzel missed a game. Zach Aston-Reese missed two games. Mike Matheson missed some time. Now Bryan Rust is out week-to-week and the NHL COVID-19 Protocols are taking Jeff Carter and Jarry out of the lineup (presumably) this weekend. Get ready for top-line center Evan Rodrigues. Not anybody’s fault, obviously. But still difficult.
At this point though, I feel like including anybody else in this section is really reaching.
Who deserves to be here? Honestly? They have six out of a possible eight points with all of the players out the of the lineup that they are missing, and they are playing really well. They are not simply collecting points by scratching and clawing their way there. They are legitimately outplaying teams — good teams, I might add. Well, good teams minus Chicago — and playing strong hockey.
Could the power play be better so far? Yeah, it absolutely could. But they are also missing half of their top power play unit.
Goaltending has been strong. Penalty kill has been great. Good defensively. They are scoring goals. There is really not much to be unhappy with right now with this team. Not even a little.
They are doing everything that could have possibly been asked of them so far. Strong start to the season and hopefully something to build on moving forward.