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Trending Penguins Players: The top line is back and it is rolling

The Pittsburgh Penguins winning streak is now at 10 consecutive games thanks in large part to the play of the top line, Evan Rodrigues, and Kris Letang.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins winning streak is now at 10 games after a great week that featured wins over the San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, and Philadelphia Flyers. Leading the way has been a dominant performance from the top line thanks to the returns of Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, while Sidney Crosby also starts to get rolling now that he has a few weeks to get back to speed.

Add in some dominant performances from the suddenly unstoppable Evan Rodrigues and the ageless Kris Letang and the Penguins are the hottest team in the league.

We take a look at all of those performances and more in this week’s Trending Penguins Players.

Who Is Hot

The top line. Sidney Crosby has his wingers back, and they are dominating. The numbers over the past week have been really something to behold. During 5-on-5 play the trio of Crosby, Guentzel, Rust has outscored teams by a 6-2 margin and completely controlled the pace of the game in terms of scoring chances and shot attempts, while their individual numbers in all situations have been ridiculous. Rust has seven goals and four assists over the past three games (including multiple goals in each game), while Guentzel has three goals and three assists as he continues to have a monster season. Crosby has actually been the “quiet” out of this trio, adding a goal and five assists over the past week. With that line rolling, the depth forwards continuing to contribute, and Evgeni Malkin’s return just around the corner the forward situation is looking great right now for the Penguins.

Evan Rodrigues. What else is there to say at this point? He is having one of the truly unbelievable seasons in the NHL when you combine the actual production, his previous career, and the preseason expectations. He has five goals and two assists this week and 14 shots on goal. The latter stat is the thing that is so encouraging, and has been all season. He is not only scoring goals and producing points, his ability to generate shots and drive possession has been elite league wide this season. He just keeps getting better each week.

Kris Letang. He still has it. Letang only has one goal this season, but he is doing everything else this season and lately he has been at the top of his game. Not the top of his game for this season, but the top of his game. Period. As in some of the best hockey we have seen him play. He has 17 shots on goal (tops on the team) over the past week and seven assists. He was especially great during Thursday’s game in Philadelphia just making play after play to help generate offense. Re-signing him should be a top priority right now.

The Power Play. This unit has not been in the who’s hot section much this season, but the Penguins’ power play went 4-for-9 this week and suddenly for the season has climbed up to 22nd in the league at 18.1 percent. It is getting better. Much better.

Who Is Not

Casey DeSmith. Yes, the Penguins might have a backup goalie problem. Going back to the end of the 2020-21 season DeSmith has allowed at least three goals in 11 of his past 14 starts, and more than four goals in nine of those starts. That is not good enough at all, and the fact Mike Sullivan benched him midway through the second period of a 3-1 game, on the first part of a back-to-back, is a pretty good sign he is not all that happy with DeSmith’s play at the moment. Or in general.

Sam Lafferty. The entire roster is playing so well right now that it is difficult to really find anybody that is not hot at the moment. Lafferty was traded this week to Chicago for Alex Nylander to clear some roster space for returning players. Lafferty was always a great story as a somewhat local kid (Holidaysburg is not Pittsburgh! It is like two and a half hours away!) that made it to the big leagues, and at times he showed some flashes of being an NHL player. He finished his Penguins career going 52 consecutive regular season games without scoring a goal.