Slow, unmenacing starts to the season are nothing new to the Pittsburgh Penguins. And this year is more of the same. This was made evident in the recent series against the Washington Capitals, who have become one of the toughest teams in the league. The Caps snatched early leads in both games of the series but the Pittsburgh Penguins offence managed to claw back and earn comeback wins in both.
Grading the Pittsburgh Penguins Offense After Four Games
Sid continues to drive play with a team-leading 63 percent Corsi to date. He played solidly in the recent series against the Washington Capitals but he’s still not at his normal elite level. He was kept in check just enough by Washington’s defencemen but broke through at key time to get Pittsburgh over the top.
In these last two games, fans have finally seen glimpses of the 40-goal-scorer, Jake Guentzel. Along with Crosby, he’s been a part of some good cycles in the offensive zone, creating scoring opportunities. The finish isn’t quite there, but is coming as evidenced by the shootout winner and whacking home a goal on the power play.
This is one combination nobody should worry about. Regardless of who head coach Mike Sullivan places on the right wing, Crosby and Guentzel will figure things out. Remember, they have played a grand total of only 25 games together dating back to the start of last season as a result of Crosby’s core muscle surgery and Guentzel’s shoulder operation. That was back in the Dominic Simon era, remember him?
It’s truly a thing of beauty to watch one of the greatest playmakers ever connect with a finisher of the highest quality. Hopefully we are blessed with many more seasons of that deadly duo.
The Bottom-6: A
After so much consternation over how the bottom-6 would shake out, the group as a whole has been solid to date. Although many observers assumed the Penguins would rely solely on their superstars, it’s been the grinders who have scored the big goals so far. Surprisingly, the bottom-six has 13 Even-strenth points to the top-six’s meager five while shutting down the opposition.
Jankowski, although lacking the blazing speed many others possess, has meshed well with Jared McCann and Brandon Tanev. McCann looks exceptionally quick and is battling for every puck. A+ for effort but he’s not finishing right now. Everything is there except the goals right now. If he starts to bury that wicked wrister, watch out!
Funny how no one’s talking about how bad Tanev’s contract is right about now. Tanev has earned a top-six look and he got it last game, being elevated to the Malkin line. He created havoc against Washington, forechecking hard and creating turnovers. He has dished out an astounding 26 hits to date and don’t expect him to stop any time soon. He’s even chipped in offensively with a pair of goals. Even after taking an Ovi slapshot up high, the Penguins warrior kept up a ferocious pace. Don’t worry about the loss of Hornqvist. Tanev is their new heart and soul.
Whether it’s been Lafferty, Rodrigues, or Kapanen skating alongside them, Teddy Blueger and Colton Sceviour have defended strongly while still turning defense into attack. Despite deployment largely in the defensive zone, the duo boasts a Corsi of over 60% with a combined three goals, two assists, and 12 Hits. When Zach Aston-Reese returns from injury, he would presumably slot in on that 4th line. The Jankowski line has been a pleasant surprise, and an intriguing ZAR-Blueger-Sceviour line has elite shutdown potential.
Kasperi Kapanen has only been in the lineup for a game, but in his much-anticipated Penguins debut, Kapanen did everything short of score. His speed and smarts created the first goal for the Penguins in Game Two, and he dominated while on the ice. It’s one game, but think about this: 13 Corsi events for to 3 against. Great start to his (hopefully) lengthy Penguins career.
The Zucker-Malkin-Rust Line: C-
The only thing that keeps this grade from going into the “D” range was Geno’s clapper on the power play. Evgeni Malkin does not look good right now. His possession metrics are quite the opposite of Crosby with a team-low 41.9 percent Corsi despite starting a team-high 62.1 percent of his face-offs in the offensive zone. Geno needs something to light a fire under him. Maybe that goal will spark something. The Pittsburgh Penguins need Geno to wake up in a big way if they are going to be successful. This line so far has been largely invisible 5-on-5 and aren’t even generating close to half of the scoring chances. There is a disconnect somewhere, but it’s up to them to figure out the kinks and get going. There’s just too much talent on that line with Zucker and Rust for the trio not to pop offensively eventually.