The Pittsburgh Penguins are now officially into the second half of their 2021-22 NHL schedule and if you are a fan of the team you have to be pretty happy with things so far.
They are in a position where the top spot in the Metropolitan Division is very much there for the taking, Evgeni Malkin is back in the lineup, Kris Letang is still playing at an absurdly high level as a top overall defenseman, Tristan Jarry has answered every question asked of him so far, and Sidney Crosby is back and still playing like, well, Sidney Crosby.
Even with Thursday’s overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken, the Penguins still had a strong week in the standings with a 3-0-1 record as part of a stretch that has seen them win 17 out of 20 games overall, including a recent six-game winning streak.
We take a look at all of that and more in this week’s Trending Penguins Players.
Who Is Hot
Sidney Crosby. It took him a couple of weeks to get back to speed, but now that he has Crosby has been on a roll offensively, and had two huge games this week. He had a four point game (including a hat trick) in Columbus and then had a three-point game against Arizona earlier this week. After recording just three points in his first eight games he now has 31 points in the 23 games that followed. That latter pace would be good enough for 111 points over an 82 game season. Great stuff.
Kris Letang. The best hockey that Kris Letang ever played in the NHL, in my opinion, over a short period of time was the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While the popular consensus was that Phil Kessel should have won the Conn Smythe that year, my mildly lukewarm take was that Letang was the one that should have won it. I am not going to say Letang is playing at quite that level this season, but I think over an extended period of time, like full season of hockey, this season might be some of the best hockey that Letang has played in the NHL. The guy still has it. Figuring out a way to get a new contract completed with him is going to be a must.
Brian Boyle. Just want to give him another shout out because, damn, I did not expect him to be this useful.
Mike Matheson. Simply a very strong season and another good week for him. The less we notice him in the defensive zone, the better things are. He still has that ability to make plays with the puck as well.
Who Is Not
More injuries. Oh, so you thought it was cool that the Penguins had their full lineup for a little bit? Yeah. That was cool. Then Zach Aston-Reese missed some time. Then Teddy Blueger broke his jaw. Then Jason Zucker needed to have surgery. Expected stuff, really.
Casey DeSmith. In his past two starts he has been pulled extremely early, in games that were still close, in back-to-back situations. That is not a sign of confidence from the coaching staff.
Danton Heinen. Really like Heinen as a player and he has been a strong addition, especially for the price. He is still fighting it lately, though. He has just one goal in his past 10 games (and zero in his past nine games) and has had some inexplicable misses on wide open nets from in close.