After a brutal nine-game stretch against some of the NHL’s best teams, and just before another extended stretch against more playoff teams, the Pittsburgh Penguins played three games this past week against the Arizona Coyotes, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Buffalo Sabres. They ended up dominating two of those games (Arizona and Columbus) before stealing a point in Buffalo and losing in a shootout on Wednesday night. Overall the Penguins are 8-2-2 in their past 12 games and have a three-point lead over the New York Rangers heading into their game on Friday night at Madison Square Garden. They have been playing great, starting to get a little more depth scoring, and also getting continued brilliance from their top players.
We start off this week’s edition of Trending Penguins Players by looking at the latter point.
Who Is Hot
Sidney Crosby. If you want you can expand this to include Jake Guentzel as well because that top-line duo remains sensational. They were toying with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night, while Crosby in particular has been dominant lately with seven points (three goals, four assists) over the past three games. It really does not matter who the third player on that line is because Crosby and Guentzel are going to score a ton of goals. It is one of the best duos the Penguins have ever had. No exaggeration or hyperbole there.
Evgeni Malkin. He did not have a particularly strong game on Wednesday night in Buffalo, but honestly, nobody on the team did. But he still scored a goal to extend his goal scoring streak to three consecutive games after a six-game point drought. I actually thought he played fairly well during that stretch despite not scoring a goal or registering an assist and that it was only a matter of time until he broke out. Then he did. He is generating a ton of shots on goals, and while Rickard Rakell has not yet found his way to Malkin’s wing, it is only a matter of time and I want to see how that works.
Ron Hextall. He does not make a lot of moves, but so far the moves he has made have been strong and successful. We still do not know how Rakell will work out, but acquiring him without giving up a first-round pick, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Samuel Poulin, or Nathan Legare is a nice win.
The Penalty Kill. Since March 1 this unit has an 88.9 success rate, which is the best mark in the entire NHL during that stretch. They hit a little bit of a lull their for a few weeks, especially when Teddy Blueger was out, but they are back on track. That is a great sign for this time of year.
Tristan Jarry. Jarry is on a roll right now for the Penguins with wins in seven of his past eight starts, a stretch that has seen him record a .945 save percentage over the past month. He has been one of the best goalies in the league this season, and especially during this most recent stretch.
Who Is Not
Penguins shooters in shootouts. At least all of them outside of Bryan Rust. Rust has been outstanding this season, scoring three of his four attempts. The rest of the team? Scoring on just 16 percent of their shots on shootouts this season. For a team as talented as this team is you would like to see a bit more there. Jarry took a lot of heat for his performance in the shootout earlier this season, but the shooters are not without blame there for the team’s poor record in shootouts. Not a huge deal ultimately because the shootout does not exist in the playoffs, but they have maybe given away at least a handful of points there this season and it could be the difference between home ice in the playoffs and not having it.