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Trending Penguins Players: Perhaps a turning point?

A slow start to the week and a strong finish.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

So this was not the best week for the Pittsburgh Penguins on the ice. It started with an ugly 6-3 loss to an Ottawa Senators team that had a fraction of a roster, and then continued 24 hours later with a very one-sided and very ugly 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

As if that was not enough, they fell behind 2-0 to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night going into the third period.

While that game still ended up being a loss, their third in a row and eighth in 10 games, it did finish with a dominant third period effort for the Pens that probably deserved a better result. It probably would have had a better result had Buffalo goalie Dustin Tokarski not turned into prime Dominik Hasek for one game. You do not really want to be in a position where you are taking moral victories away against the Buffalo Sabres, but it was still a strong sign for a team that needed something to build on.

It carried over to Thursday night where the Penguins did what they were supposed to do — dominate a bad Montreal Canadiens team and cruise to an easy 6-0 win. I still think the Penguins have deserved a better result in some of these early games and it was only a matter of time until some of those shots started to find the back of the net. Perhaps that third period effort against Buffalo can be a turning point for this season.

Now let us take a look at who is hot and who is not in this week’s Trending Penguins Players.

Who Is Hot

Jake Guentzel. It was only a matter of time until Guentzel started to get rolling, and with his two point (one goal, one assist) effort on Thursday he is now on a four-game point streak and a three-game goal streak. After a slow start he is now up to six goals, eight assists, and 14 total points in 15 games. That is a 32-goal, 76-point pace over 82 games. He is going to be just fine.

Evan Rodrigues. Think this might be the biggest pleasant surprise of the season. He has been legitimately good and is making a strong case to stay in the lineup with a consistent role. He already has 11 points in 16 games and is probably going to shatter his previous career high in goals this season. He nearly led an improbable comeback against Ottawa all by himself.

Teddy Blueger. After scoring two goals in the first three games of the season Blueger went through a little bit of a slump offensively, but now thanks to his two-goal effort on Thursday night in Montreal he now has three goals in his past four games. Defense is the name of his game, but there is still some offensive ability there and a potential 15-goal scorer in a bottom-six role. Combine that with his defensive play and you have a heckuva complementary player.

Who Is Not

Casey DeSmith. He has not played much this season, and it would be unfair to put all of the Ottawa game on him (the entire team was lousy in that game) but the bottom line is this: Going back to the end of the 2020-21 season pretty much every time DeSmith starts in goal he is almost guaranteed to give up at least three or four goals with a sub-.900 save percentage. It’s also led to the team leaning on Tristan Jarry to start almost every game.

Finishing ability for some top six players. Specifically, Jeff Carter, Jason Zucker, and Bryan Rust lately. I do not think any of the three are playing especially poorly this season, but the puck is not going in for them. Especially this week. Carter, Zucker, and Rust combied for 31 shots on goal over the past four games and scored zero goals. For the season all three are shooting 6.5 percent or lower, significantly below all of their career averages. Zucker has been especially snakebit, consistently creating chances and breakaways that he simply has not been able to finish on. Carter has also had some very close misses in recent games. The good news is the chances are there. Just have to hope the chances continue and that some of them start finding their way to the back of the net.

The power play. Yes, again. Even the goal they scored against Buffalo was a fluke and the performance against Ottawa and Washington was just ugly. Still statistically the worst unit in the league this season.