At the time it did not seem as if the Pittsburgh Penguins had taken the biggest swing for the fences at the NHL trade deadline. They still may have hit a pretty big home run with Jeff Carter.
His four-goal performance on Thursday night in an 8-4 win against the Buffalo Sabres gives him eight goals and 10 total points since the trade, making him one of the most impactful additions made by any team. He has been a perfect fit from day and has fit in every possible way.
If we are being honest here not even Ron Hextall could have expected this much of an impact.
With five goals over the past week, including the aforementioned four-goal effort on Thursday, Carter headlines this week’s edition of Trending Penguins Players.
Who Is Hot
Jeff Carter. Well obviously. Even more than Jeff Carter himself is the immediate chemistry he seems to have developed with Jared McCann. That duo has played more than 155 minutes of hockey together during 5-on-5 play since the trade, with the Penguins owning a better than 56 percent share of total shot attempts, scoring chances, and high-danger scoring chances, as well as a 14-4 goals advantage. That is dominant. If that is your third line you are in a pretty good position. It also has not really mattered who the third player on that line is as they have found success with Jason Zucker and on Thursday Frederick Gaudreau.
Frederick Gaudreau. He just keeps impressing with every opportunity he gets. He entered the season with eight points in 84 career games through his age 27 season. Nothing that stands out. Very forgettable. In his first 18 games with the Penguins he already has nine points and looks like he can potentially make an impact as a bottom-six forward. Honestly, even when everybody is healthy there might be a role for him. He certainly seems to be more impactful than, say, Colton Sceviour.
Sidney Crosby. His line slumped there for a bit but has definitely started come back around over the past couple of games. As you knew it would. His big response game in Philadelphia on Tuesday was significant, and overall he has four goals and two assists over the past four games.
The Power Play. Do not look now but the Penguins suddenly have the sixth-ranked power play in the NHL at better than 24 percent. This is a massive improvement from where it was as recently as a month-and-a-half ago. I still think the penalty kill is more important when it comes to winning in the playoffs, but the power play is definitely starting to make more of an impact and it is not just the first unit that is making that happen. Carter being a part of the second unit (one of his four goals on Thursday came with the second power play unit) gives that group a legitimate goal scorer to help finish on those advantages.
Who Is Not
Tristan Jarry. On one hand it might be a little unfair to say this of a goalie that is 12-1-1 in his past 14 decisions, but he has given up quite a few goals over the past few games. Over his past six appearances he has an .897 save percentage (and that includes one shutout mixed in there) and has been increasingly sloppy when playing the puck in recent weeks. There have been some bad luck goals mixed in there, and it would be easy to say the Penguins’ defensive effort on Thursday was a little free and loose by giving up four goals to the Buffalo Sabres. But when you look at the numbers the Penguins only allowed 23 shots on goal and significantly limited the scoring chances against. It just so happened that the few chances Buffalo did get ended up in the back of the net. Coach Mike Sullivan basically said exactly that in his post-game press conference. With the way the forward lines are looking now, and if the defense can get Mike Matheson back in place of Mark Friedman, this is looking like an extremely solid team. The goaltending with Jarry and Casey DeSmith will determine what they are capable of doing in the playoffs.
The Mark Friedman-Cody Ceci defense pairing. This is where the Mike Matheson absence becomes a factor because he and Ceci have been so good together this season. Friedman is intriguing, but that duo has struggled a bit over the past couple of games, and the numbers help illlustrate that (around 40 percent corsi, getting outchanced and outshot). Would be much more confident with this pairing going into the playoffs if Matheson is back there.
The NHL and the Department Of Player Safety. This has nothing to do with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Seriously though. Come on, folks. What are we doing here? This department has no consistency or any common sense.