All season I have been pretty optimistic about the Pittsburgh Penguins and their chances. For most of the season there has been a lot to like about the way the team has played, the make up of the roster, and the fact they have comfortably made the playoffs for the 16th year in a row.
But over the past few weeks the vibes have been weak as the team has won just six of its past 17 games, and Tuesday’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers might have been the game where my expectations for the Stanley Cup Playoffs reached down to zero or close to it. The Penguins just looked bad. They were outskated, outclassed, and just did not look anything like a Stanley Cup contender. It was the second straight bad game and put them into a position where they might have to win on Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets to avoid being a Wild Card team in the Atlantic Division bracket.
Who Is Hot
Sidney Crosby. Since there are not a ton of positives this week I am just going to focus on the captain for another sensational regular season. He is the team MVP again and proved this season that he is still an elite, top-tier player and should be for at least another couple of years. He and Jake Guentzel have been the two constants on this year’s team.
Beyond that, everybody else is in the “not” column this week, unless the Detroit Red Wings are the opponent.
Who Is Not
Brock McGinn. I hated the lines the Penguins used on Tuesday, not only because it broke up the Crosby-Guentzel-Rickard Rakell line, but also because it put McGinn back in the top-six on the second line next to Malkin and Rakell. It just did not work. I am not even sure that McGinn should have a guaranteed spot in the lineup, let alone a spot in the top-six. Every line he is a part of gets held back offensively, and he had an especially tough game on Tuesday against the Oilers.
Bryan Rust. He does not have a point in eight consecutive games and only three points (two goals and an assist) in his past 14 games. Even more concerning was the fact his shot numbers totally evaporated recently. He did have six shots on goal on Tuesday, which is as many as he had in the previous four games so maybe that could be the start of him breaking out of this slump offensively.
Jason Zucker’s injuries. This is just not his season. Injuries have been a constant problem, and every time he gets back in the lineup and seems to be getting back on track he gets sidelined again, Just brutal luck this season.
The playoff hopes. Something is going to have change drastically between now and the start of the First Round for the Penguins to make a run because the recent record and recent play speaks for itself, and it is not good. The Penguins definitely have the potential to beat the New York Rangers, and they have a great track record against Sergei Bobrovsky, and I am not even sure how much I trust this Florida Panthers team in the playoffs, but can you really trust the Penguins right now? The switch needs to be flipped immediately.
The Power Play. It has been a problem lately, in terms of getting set up, in terms of generating shots and chances, and in terms of actually scoring goals on a consistent basis. It has been a very hot and very cold group this season and lately the cold version has been the one the Penguins have been putting on the ice.