It has been another mostly solid week for the Pittsburgh Penguins, even if Thursday’s game in Toronto was not one of their better performances of the season. They won two games to extend their winning streak to four games and take over first place in the Metropolitan Division (by points at least; points percentage they are still in second place behind the Carolina Hurricanes) and continue to maintain their spot at the top of the league standings.
They also continued to show they can win games in a variety of ways and that they are never really out of a game.
Then there was another milestone for Sidney Crosby, scoring his 500th career goal in the NHL.
We look at all of that and more in this week’s Trending Penguins Players.
Who Is Hot
Sidney Crosby. He did not have his best game on Thursday (nobody really did) but he did score his 500th goal in the most fitting way possible. Against the Philadelphia Flyers, at home, in a win, and for his 50th all-time goal against the Flyers. He is also just having an absolutely sensational season and has been on a roll over the past few weeks. Before being held off the scoresheet on Thursday he was on a seven-game point streak that featured five multi-point games. He has been held without a point in just three of his past 15 games. For the season he has 46 points in 39 games, a 97-point pace over 82 games. Since November 25 he has 44 points in 32 games, a 114-point pace over 82 games. The only player in the NHL with more points than him since November 25 is Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau.
Brian Boyle. Am liking him as a player way more than I thought I would when he joined the team in training camp. My expectations were low, but he has wildly exceeded all of them. He is obviously not a player that you want to rely on for big minutes at this stage of his career, but as a fourth-line/extra forward that can also kill penalties he has been everything you could have possibly hoped for and more. He had a really strong week and a fantastic game in New Jersey to help drive that win.
Kris Letang. Another game-winning overtime goal against the Flyers to continue what has been one of his better seasons in the NHL. Like Crosby, he had a really tough game on Thursday night but at this point I am willing to just chalk that up as “one of those games that happens over an 82-game regular season.” You are not going to dominate every single game. Victor Hedman, Roman Josi, Adam Fox, and Cale Makar are the only defenders with more points than him this season, and he can still control the pace of the game like few others when he is on the ice. Which is a lot at more than 26 minutes per game.
Who Is Not
Kasperi Kapanen and Evan Rodrigues. These two are still fighting it right now, but I do love that head coach Mike Sullivan at least switched things around and reunited them back together to see if they can recapture their early season production. They have a strong track record of playing together and it can not hurt to try it again. Did not get great results on Thursday, but I want to see it get a chance.
Zach Aston-Reese’s offense. We are specifically limiting this to his offense, because his defensive play remains outstanding and among the best in the league among forwards. Honestly, that is what the Penguins need and want from him. But we should at least acknowledge the fact he still only has one goal in 43 games this season and that is wild, even for a player whose game is not based around offense. Based on his career to this point he has been a 10-12 goal player per 82 games, and is about seven or eight goals behind what he would usually have at this point in the season. Guy simply can not buy a goal right now.
Brock McGinn. Really like what McGinn has brought to the team this season as the Brandon Tanev replacement, but he has hit a bit of a wall here lately (only one point, an assist, over his past nine games) and really seemed out of place on the second line. That is not necessarily his fault because that is not what he was brought in to do, but he has struggled here lately.