Just when things were starting to look really bleak for the Pittsburgh Penguins they were able to get back-to-back wins on Tuesday and Wednesday by beating the Arizona Coyotes and then coming from behind against the Montreal Canadiens.
Were they most impressive wins? No. But they were wins. And the Penguins are in no position to apologize for winning by any means necessary or get caught up in style points.
Those are the types of teams they need to beat. They are the type of teams they have not always beaten over the past year-and-a-half.
The funny thing is that for all of their struggles they are still 4-2-3 over their past nine games, a record and pace that would come out to a 100-point pace over 82 games. They have not been consistently winning, but they have been consistently collecting points, Credit to the goaltending for helping to make that happen. But with anything from the power play or bottom-six they probably have a couple of extra points during that stretch and give us a completely different outlook on the season.
You have to start the turnaround somewhere. Maybe this is it.
With all of that said, let us get into the Pittsburgh Penguins Weekly Stock Report.
The power play. Finally. FINALLY. We finally have something good for the power play. After going a full calendar month without scoring a goal, and in the process playing a huge role in the team’s recent slump, the Penguins power play finally had two breakout games this week by scoring four — FOUR! — goals in the team’s wins on Tuesday and Wednesday night against Arizona and Montreal. Jake Guentzel scored two, Sidney Crosby scored one and Jeff Carter, of all people, scored one to finally get that unit on track. Hopefully it is the start of something significant in the coming weeks. The Penguins need it.
Sidney Crosby. Crosby continues to be an absolute marvel for his ability to keep playing at an MVP level deep into his 30s. There is just no slowing down with this guy, and he has helped put the team on his back over the past week to try and drag it back into playoff contention. As of Friday he has 17 goals, 14 assists and 31 total points in 28 games. Those numbers put him on a pace for 49 goals and 90 points over 82 games, He is 36 years old. Those are absolutely bonkers numbers for a player at this stage of his career.
Jake Guentzel. Whether it is with the Penguins or another team, Guentzel is earning himself a huge contract at some point over the next few months. He has six goals in six games in the month of December and is on pace for 38 goals over 82 games. He is one of the best goal-scorers in the league and I still feel like he does not get anywhere near enough credit league wide, simply because he plays next to Crosby. I have said it before, but even if that boosts his numbers a little bit there have been a lot of really good, skilled and talented players that have skated next to Crosby for extended periods of time and never come close to achieving these numbers. Playing alongside Crosby does not overrate Guentzel, it underrates him. Significantly.
Bottom-six scoring. This is starting to become a real problem again, especially during 5-on-5 play. Part of it is injuries, part of it is simply the fact this group is not very good offensively. I will give Jeff Carter a lot of credit for scoring two goals against Arizona, including a shorthanded goal and a game-winning power play goal, but the 5-on-5 offense from everybody in this group has been literally non-existent. As in zero goals during the month of December. Six games. Zero goals during 5-on-5 play with neither Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin on the ice. They have been outscored 0-3 during that stretch and are in the negative when it comes to every scoring chance and expected goal metric. My expectations are low, but they could really use Jesse Puljujuarvi showing them something, earning a contract, and bringing something to that group.
Penalty Kill. Just as the power play starts to get turned around, the penalty kill is showing a lot of weakness. It was already slumping a bit heading into the week and then gave up three goals in the two games against Arizona and Montreal. They have been consistently good all season so this might just be the type of lull you will sometimes get in production over the course of an 82-game season. Not something worthy of panicking about just yet. Still something to watch.