With another week in the books it is time to check in with another edition of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ weekly stock report.
Given the way this week went with the Penguins losing two more games there are not many players with their stock trending up.
The third line. The one big bright spot for the Penguins this week is the fact the new-look third line continues to be incredibly effective, I would go as far as to say it has been the Penguins’ best line over the past few games.
The line of Lars Eller, Radim Zohorna and Drew O’Connor has only played about 39 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey together, but they have been outstanding in the minutes they have played. Everything finally started to click with this unit when Zohorna replaced Jansen Harkins.
Since that happened this line has controlled 66 percent of the total shot attempts, 70 percent of the expected goals, 66 percent of the scoring chances and more than 70 percent of the high-danger scoring chances. Even more important than that is the fact this group has already combined for three goals while allowing just one in their minutes together.
They have also put together all of those numbers while only getting 39 percent of their zone starts in the offensive zone.
It has simply been a great line and one that is bringing a ton of much-needed energy to the bottom of the lineup.
Zohorna remains the big X-factor in that group, because without him everything about the bottom-six has looked pedestrian or worse this season.
I also love the way Eller has played, even if he is not an ideal third-line center at this stage of his career.
O’Connor is the one member of that line that has not yet really stood out individually, but I am not going to complain about the energy or performance of this line as a whole. They really do have an effective third line for the moment.
Tristan Jarry. I mentioned this on Thursday, but it is really difficult to have two shutouts in your first seven starts and still end up having a saving percentage under .900 for the season. The Inconsistency is still extremely alarming and is not getting any better from what we have seen in recent years. He has been especially bad this past week, allowing seven goals on only 36 shots. That is simply not winning hockey. The Penguins have had an expected goal share of 60 percent or better in four of his past five starts. They have won exactly one of those games (oddly enough, it was the one game where they had the best expected goal numbers. But still, with competent goaltending they might have an extra win or two at this point).
Rickard Rakell. He has zero goals and one assist in nine games, and even worse he just seems invisible. Have you really noticed him stand out in a positive way in any game this season? I do think with the shot volume he is generating that he will start scoring goals again soon, but the Penguins need more from him. Especially on the power play.
Jeff Carter. It looks like Penguins fans might finally get their wish on Saturday and Jeff Carter might actually end up as a healthy scratch. It is would be a completely earned trip to the press box, as well. Like the rest of the fourth line, he has not recorded a single point of any kind in nine games, while also generating just six total shots on goal. The fact he is getting to a point where a healthy scratch might actually happen, where the Penguins themselves are finally fed up, is telling given how loyal they have been to him over the past year.
The lack of finish offensively. Whether it is Rakell, Jake Guentzel, or any other forward or player on the roster, the Penguins are still having issues finishing plays and actually putting the puck in the net. It is the case at even-strength. It is the case on the power play. It is the case in every situation. They are averaging 3.84 expected goals per 60 minutes in all situations, the highest mark in the league. They are only 20th in the league in actual goals scored per 60 minutes. I am as big of a “trust the process” guy as there is, but at this point, after 90-plus games dating back to the start of the 2022-23 season, you have to start realizing it is not just a year-plus run of bad luck. This team is really missing a Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist type of menace around the front of the net to cause traffic for goalies and collect garbage goals. Too many unobstructed shots from good areas that goalies are getting clean looks at. They need a garbage man.