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Trending Penguins Players: Starting the second half right

The Pittsburgh Penguins have opened the second half of the season with back-to-back wins.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins have come out of the All-Star Break with back-to-back wins on the road, snapping what had been a four-game winless streak going into the All-Star Break. They were maybe not the cleanest wins, but they were able to get great goaltending and see a boost from their secondary scoring to get back on track.

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

Who Is Hot

Sidney Crosby. He has been on a roll for a while now, and with an assist on Thursday night is on a five-game point streak and has recorded at least one point in 10 of his past 12 games. That includes five different multi-point games as he inches closer toward another career milestone (he is one goal away from 500 career goals). His power play goal in Boston on Tuesday night proved to be the game-winner in a come-from-behind win, while he also made a sliding shot block late in the third period on Thursday night to help protect what was at the time a 1-0 lead. Then he set up Bryan Rust for the empty net goal to clinch the win. Great stuff all around from the captain and his line.

Goaltending. At least this week it is. Both goalies. Tristan Jarry returned from his All-Star experience and was sensational in Boston on Tuesday night, helping to steal a much-needed two points. On Thursday, Casey DeSmith played one of his best games of the season to get a shutout against the Ottawa Senators. That is two straight solid games for DeSmith. Sign that his season is going to turn around? Hopefully for him and the Penguins because the other team he put together consecutive strong games this season he reverted back to his struggles later on. Jarry remains consistently strong this season.

The Power Play. Not a great showing on Thursday in Ottawa, but this unit has been outstanding for a while and has started to climb toward the top-10 in the NHL. Massive turnaround from what we saw in the first part of the season. Guess getting a couple of Hall of Famers back did the trick,

Bryan Rust. Maybe we $tart calling him Bryan Ru$t because every game and every goal just keeps adding dollar signs to his next contract, whether it is in Pittsburgh or somewhere else. Since the start of the new calendar year Rust has 26 points in 14 games including 14 goals. That includes his most recent five-game stretch where he has six goals on 25 shots. Just incredible stuff. He is scoring goals at even-strength, on the power play, on empty nets, pretty much every way imaginable.

Who Is Not

The Penalty Kill without Teddy Blueger. Overall the Penguins’ penalty kill rank for the season is still among the elites in the league, and is still excellent. Over the past few weeks though, and since Teddy Blueger went out of the lineup, this group has struggled. The Penguins’ penalty kill is only successful on 68.8 of its attempts since January 23 (when Blueger was injured against the Winnipeg Jets), a mark that is 26th in the entire NHL during that stretch.

Kasperi Kapanen. Getting goals from Danton Heinen and Jeff Carter over the past two games was big because they needed their secondary scoring to break out of its recent slump. Obviously those goals played a significant role in the Penguins winning the past two games. They are still not getting much lately from Kapanen who has zero points in seven games, and only one point in his past nine games. That one point was a goal on a pass that deflected in the net off of his skate, Will keep shouting this from the rooftops because I want to see it again, but please try him with Evan Rodrigues again (who is going through a similar scoring slump) to see if they can recapture the production they have had over the past two seasons when playing on the same line.

The All-Star Game. Tried to watch some of it but just could not get interested. No real commentary or suggestion here, because there is not a format that is going to really work well to make it into something exciting, nor is there a reason for that. Just pointing out that even when they introduce a new format that briefly makes it interesting (the All-Star Fantasy Draft, the 3-on-3 mini tournament) it still does not have staying power. The reality is All-Star games just do not work for what they were intended to be.