It has been a pretty eventful week for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After winning 10 games in a row their winning streak came to an end — in somewhat disappointing fashion, allowing a 2-0 lead to slip away — and have lost two out of three games. They got back one of their top players in Evgeni Malkin who returned with a two-goal effort on Tuesday night. They also had their starting goalie earn another All-Star game nod to continue what has been, so far, a redemption season.
We take a look at all of that and more in this week’s Trending Penguins Players.
Who Is Hot
Tristan Jarry’s reputation. Tristan Jarry was always going to be the big wild card on this team this season, and his play was going to dictate a lot of what the Penguins were capable of doing. Management decided to roll the dice with the same goalie duo as a year ago and did not really bring in anybody to challenge Jarry — whose NHL resume was still a very mixed bag — for the starting spot and basically just hoped he would bounce back from a bad playoff showing. He has done exactly that. Not only has he bounced back, he has been one of the league’s best goalies so far and a major driving force in the Penguins’ first half success. All of that earned him an All-Star nod this week, making it the second time in his career he has been selected to the NHL All-Star game. I know the formats are different and more goalies get chosen because of that (we used to see six goalies in the All-Star game; now we have eight goalies), and I know nobody really gives a damn about the All-Star game, but being a two-time All-Star in the NHL by age 26 is still something to hang your hat on. He earned it.
Evgeni Malkin is back. In some ways it is probably a good thing the Penguins ended their winning streak before Malkin’s return because a non-zero number of people would have pointed the finger at him coming back for causing that. When he did make his season debut he made an immediate impact offensively, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Penguins’ 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night. He had a chance for a hat trick but deferred to Jeff Carter for an empty-net goal. His second game on Thursday was not as impactful, but other than Jarry for a good portion of it nobody else really made much of an impact, either. Still, having him back in the lineup is only a good thing as he is still one of the league’s best impact offensive players and makes an already deep, talented lineup that much better.
Jeff Carter. Since joining the Penguins he has scored at a 40-goal pace (regular season and playoffs) and been a major addition in terms of improving the team’s scoring depth. His two goals this past week came in the same game, but he also had 12 shots on goal (five more than anybody else on the team) in the three games and is scoring a 30-goal, 55-point pace per 82 games this season. Given the salary cap hit and cost to acquire him he has been a steal.
Kris Letang. Still playing at an insanely high level for his age. Still in must-sign territory. He still has a few very good years ahead of him.
Radim Zohorna. He has not played a lot the past two seasons, but when he has, he has been impressive. In his three games this week he has a goal, an assist, while the Penguins held a 30-9 shot attempt advantage with him on the ice during 5-on-5 play, 16-3 scoring chance advantage, and a 3-0 goals advantage.
Who Is Not
Never having a full roster. You knew as soon as Malkin returned that somebody else was going to leave the lineup for one reason or another. It turned out to be multiple players due to COVID protocols, including Bryan Rust, Brock McGinn, Zach Astron-Reese, and Danton Heinen. Hopefully we really will see this team with its full roster the way it is intended to look.
The Penalty Kill. Since the start of January they have dropped down to 76.5 percent in the past six games. They were never going to maintain that early season success rate, so some regression was going to happen at some point. Now that it has happened, time to reverse the trend back in the positive direction.
Evan Rodrigues. Do not overthink this one. He is having an amazing season and a cold streak was inevitable at some point. He has been held off the scoresheet entirely this week and only had three shots on goal over the past two games while his possession numbers dropped a bit. He has yet to go more than four games in a row without a point this season.