The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a really good spot right now, and are more than holding their own during what is probably the toughest part of their schedule. They dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning, got a point against Carolina (all as part of a back-to-back situation) and then had a brutal start against the Florida Panthers that ultimately cost them a chance at a point. Considering the quality of competition (literally three of the best teams in the NHL. Probably three of the four best teams) that is about what you might expect.
That is not to say there are not some flaws right now. While the Sidney Crosby line has mostly carried the offense, the depth scoring has continued to be a struggle.
We take a look at those things and more in this week’s Trending Penguins Players.
Who Is Hot
The Sidney Crosby line. Not only have Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust been outstanding offensively, they have been the offense, especially during 5-on-5 play. They are giving up a little bit defensively, but their offense has been fantastic. Crosby has been one of the most productive players in the league for two months now, Guentzel has scored a goal in three consecutive games and is on track for 40 goals over 82 games, and Rust is having a career year.
John Marino and Marcus Pettersson. This pairing hit a little bit of a rough patch recently, but they have bounced back over the past week. This is still a really interesting dynamic with these two because individually they have their flaws and might be a little pricey for what they provide, especially for a salary cap team like the Penguins, but when you play them together the results always work out to something good and among the better defensive pairings in the league.
Casey DeSmith. Earlier this season DeSmith looked like the obvious Achilles Heel on this team and the one player that needed to be replaced before the trade deadline. His season as a whole has still been inconsistent, and every time it seems like he is starting to turn things around he reverts back to the way he started, but in his past four starts the Penguins are 3-0-1 while he has a .932 save percentage. That is significant improvement for him.
Who Is Not
Depth scoring in general. Still can not get past the fact so many players have seen their shooting percentages crater over the past few weeks. That has to turn around at some point.
Kasperi Kapanen. It looks like his in-game benchings are going to result in a healthy scratch. It is not unwarranted. He has just a single goal in almost three months (a pass that deflected off his skate into the net against the Winnipeg Jets) and he is not making any sort of meaningful impact in anyway. Earlier this season he, Evan Rodrigues, and Jason Zucker were one of the best lines in hockey across the board. Zucker’s injury and Kapanen’s significant regression have been a pretty unfortunate development for the Penguins recently. Still no idea what his future with the team looks like and whether or not he will still be on the team after the trade deadline.
Jeff Carter. Have been a fan of Jeff Carter from the moment he arrived, and for the most part he has been an outstanding addition to the lineup. But he, like most of the secondary players, has struggled to score goals lately. He also has some of the weakest underlying numbers on the team. He has to score goals to bring the type of value he has, and right now he is not doing that. Still think there is some bad shooting percentage luck at play here and that will eventually correct itself, but it would be very beneficial if that happened sooner rather than later.