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What happened to the Penguins’ secondary scoring?

RIP, nearly point-per-game E-Rod (October 2021- January 2022)— and he’s not the only secondary scorer who’s gone dark since early January.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Washington Capitals
Jake Guentzel celebrates with Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust after scoring against the host Washington Capitals on November 14, 2021.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

30 points in his first 33 games.

Then, three points in his next 18.

It began with a three-game point streak; it ended with a three-game goal streak. From October 12, 2021 to January 6, 2022, Evan Rodrigues was one of the Penguins’ most reliable producers, trailing only Jake Guentzel for the team lead in goals (Guentzel, 18; Rodrigues, 15) and points (Guentzel, 33; Rodrigues, 30).

Since then, Rodrigues registered assists in just two outings, and hasn’t scored in 18 contests.

He’s not the only secondary scorer who has struggled to produce for the Penguins lately. For the past month, the team’s forwards have relied almost exclusively— and somewhat worryingly— on their top line for goals.

From October 12 to January 6, Pittsburgh’s “top three” of Jake Guetnzel, Sidney Crosby and Brian Rust combined for 32 goals (Crosby 5, Guentzel 18, Rust 9.)

The Penguins’ forward group also received significant scoring from Rodrigues (15) as well as Carter (9), Kapanen (7), Blueger (7), McGinn (9) and Heinen (9), meaning the top line— all three members of which missed time over the stretch— accounted for under a third of the team’s forward goal total.

In the latter part of the season, however, Crosby, Guentzel and Rust have been (mostly) back, and they have (almost entirely) taken over the team’s offensive production.

From January 7 to February 18, the trio have combined for 24 goals in 18 games; Penguins forwards have scored 47 over the stretch. The trio has accounted for over 50% of the scoring from Pittsburgh’s forwards for 18 games.

Over the stretch, Blueger and McGinn have recorded one goal each, while Rodrigues and Kapanen has been held to two apiece.

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins
Crosby talks with Guentzel and Rust during a game against the visiting Capitals on February 1.
Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

This isn’t all because of the Penguins’ bottom three lines going dry. Crosby, Rust and Guentzel have put up some of the best numbers in the NHL over this past month. Crosby (9-13—22) sits seventh in the NHL in production since January 7; Guentzel is No. 22, and Rust No. 27.

But the three could certainly use some backup from their bottom three lines. That could come from finding linemates which click with Evgeni Malkin and figuring out where Kasperi Kapanen best fits in this lineup.

What do you think the best arrangement of the Penguins’ bottom nine forwards will be to encourage forward goals from outside of the top line?