The Pittsburgh Penguins enter Friday’s game against the Florida Panthers on a three-game losing streak with four losses in their past five games.
If you want to be optimistic about the situation you could look at the fact that three of those losses came in overtime or a shootout and that they are maybe just one or two shots away from this week having an entirely different look.
But that is the sort of thing we have been saying around here for two years now.
Well if THAT game had gone different, and if THOSE games were held on to they would be in such a better spot right now.
That sort of thing, and those sorts of losses, kept them out of the playoffs a year ago.
They have them on the outside of the playoff picture this season.
A team that used to find ways to win games, even on off nights, is now consistently finding ways to lose games.
They have another chance to get back in the win column on Friday against a tough Panthers team, but before that happens let us check in with the Pittsburgh Penguins’ weekly stock report.
The Goalies. Tristan Jarry was not great in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, but it is also hard to blame him too much given how little support he got in front of him. Overall, though, the goalies have been better than anybody could have hoped this season. All of them, including Jarry, are giving them better than league average play and pretty much keeping them in games. Alex Nedeljkovic has been a pleasant surprise as a backup, Magnus Hellberg has held his own, and if Jarry had given them this level of goaltending in recent years they might have had a playoff series win to show for it. I can not blame these guys for where this team is.
The fact this team is where it is given the goaltending it has received his wildly concerning.
What if the goaltending was bad?
What if it gets bad?
Jake Guentzel. Goals by Jake Guentzel this week: 3. Goals by the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins this week: 2.
He is also on a seven-game point streak and has at least one point in 14 of his past 15 games. He is playing great in a contract year. Playing next to Sidney Crosby might help his production a little, but it also underrates how good he actually is.
He is one of the few bright spots in recent weeks.
Radim Zohorna. He started off so strong and has tailed off so badly. Not only in terms of his production, but also just in terms of his overall play. The underlying numbers have regressed, his overall impact has regressed, and he is starting to look like the fringe NHLer he probably is. That is disappointing because when he first got the call up it looked like his line with Lars Eller and Drew O’Connor might actually give them a fighting chance of having a quality third line. But injuries throughout the lineup, as well as the lack of organizational forward depth, have forced people into roles they probably are not capable of playing and the trickle down effect has been obvious.
Reilly Smith. He got off to such a strong start and looked to be one of Kyle Dubas’ best offseason acquisitions. But he is now stuck on a 15-game goal drought going into Friday and has just two assists over that stretch. The entire second line is struggling at 5-on-5 right now, and nobody is feeling that more than Smith. Players will always go through peaks and valleys throughout the course of an 82-game season, and he is absolutely in one of those valleys right now. Even worse than the lack of goals and production is that he just has not really been noticeable on any given night. They need more from him.
Special teams. At this point I am not even sure what else there is to be said about the power play. It is just appalling every single night. No flow. No rhythm. No plan. No production. No goals. Do you realize how hard it is to go almost an entire month without scoring a power play goal? It is a staggering stretch of play that is costing them games and completely sinking their season.
But while the power play has been abysmal for most of the season, the penalty kill has at least been a big positive.
Until this week, when it went just 6-for-9 for the week and gave up two goals in Tampa Bay. Hard to expect them to keep being perfect, but this week it all just kind of fell apart for both units.