We only got half of the Pittsburgh Penguins games we expected to get this past week due to COVID protocols involving their scheduled opponent, the New Jersey Devils. That means it is a bit of an incomplete week with an extra long break mixed in before the next game on Saturday against the New York Islanders.
But we still saw a couple of games that featured some bright spots and some not so bright spots.
Let’s get to it in this week’s edition of Trending Penguins players.
Who Is Hot
Pierre-Olivier Joseph. This is easy and the obvious choice. The rookie defender has been incredible so far this season and has had to take on an increasingly larger role over the past few games due to the injury situation on defense.
Honestly, there is no need for him to ever come out of the lineup at this point even when everybody else is healthy.
He played more than 52 minutes over the two games this past week and had a three-point game in the Penguins’ win over the New York Rangers over the weekend. He looks like he belongs at this level right now and his development could be a potential season-changer given what he can do on the blue line. They need some young players like him to show up and make an immediate impact.
Jason Zucker. It has been a little bit of an up-and-down start for Zucker this season but things started to finally transfer into goals recently with now three goals on the season and two in as many games.
He is one of the players in the top-six that really needs to get going.
Maybe this is the start.
Cody Ceci. Honestly I just want to give him some credit because I think he has played pretty well so far this season.
Certainly better than I anticipated.
The injury situation is probably making him take on a bigger role than the Penguins would have expected him to play this season, but after a shaky debut earlier in the season I think he has been mostly solid and I just wanted to give him some props for that while we can.
Who Is Not
Special Teams. It was only two games, but this was a tough week for both special teams units.
The power play specifically.
In the two games the power play went a dismal 0-for-10, looked even worse, and gave up a shorthanded goal. Their inability to score on the power play helped the Rangers gain a point on Saturday and was the difference for Monday’s game.
While the power play has been a season-long mess, the penalty kill had a tough week as well giving up a pair of power play goals.
Defense depth. This is a two-part answer. For one, it refers to the injury and COVID situation that has sidelined most of the top-six. It is a ridiculous stretch that has now taken five of the team’s six defenders from opening night out of the lineup.
But it also refers to the struggles of Yannick Weber (minus-3 in two games) and Kevin Czuczman who has just looked out of his element.
It is hard to overcome that many absences on defense, and some of the lower level players are struggling to keeep up and give meaningful minutes right now.
It is not anybody’s fault. Just the reality.
The Patric Hornqvist trade. I had no issue with trading Hornqvist this offseason. In fact, I think there was a very strong argument for trading him, especially if you were looking to make a change and maybe shed some salary cap space. I do not think it is entirely fair to question the motivation to trade him.
It is fair to question the return on that trade.
But what is making it really difficult right now is the fact Hornqvist already has five goals this season in seven games for the Panthers, including three on the power play.
That power play success, in contrast with the Penguins’ struggles on the power play as well as Mike Matheson’s absence (and initial struggles before that absence) is just making everything look really frustrating at the moment.