The only constant in the 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins game of late has been their inconsistent play and lack of a constant sense of urgency. While that sounds antithetical to a degree, the Pittsburgh Penguins have truly embodied that during the 2020-21 season. Especially in the last couple of weeks. From period to period, Mike Sullivan has no idea what to expect from his team the way they have been playing.
Pittsburgh Penguins Have Been Very Inconsistent During the 2020-21 Season
The blame lies evenly spread out on the collective shoulders of most players on the roster with few exceptions. Tristan Jarry is one of only a few players who has played at a consistently high level for the last couple of weeks. Remember that is the same Tristan Jarry who was statically one of the worst goalies in the NHL for the first several weeks of the season. Even so, no one is above reproach. Sidney Crosby has been fine, but not at his normal elite level.
Playing the Blame Game with the Forwards
What’s Wrong with Evgeni Malkin?
Evgeni Malkin is playing undeniably the worst hockey of his career. The roller coaster ride of his career path is getting steadily steeper. He rebounded from a tumultuous 2018-19 season with an MVP-caliber 2019-20 season only to fall into the deepest abyss he’s ever been in. Malkin is failing to mesh with any and all linemates he’s been deployed with, but it doesn’t stop there.
Can we please never see the currently-injured Jason Zucker and Evgeni Malkin on the ice together again? There is zero chemistry there! Consider these stats. Despite being gifted over 65 percent of their five-on-five starts in the offensive zone, the duo only gets 47.2 percent of the scoring chances, 36.4 percent of the high danger chances, and have only scored 42.9 percent of the goals. The Penguins have only produced roughly two and a half goals per 60 minutes when that duo has been on the ice. Remember that is with the new superstar Bryan Rust on the right side doing his thing. There is no issue with the other winger on that line.
Who is Kasperi Kapanen
Is Kasperi Kapanen the player who almost had a natural hat trick in half a period against Philadephia Flyers? Or is he the player who disappears for shifts, periods, and even games at a time? Is Kapanen the player with blinding speed that creates chances off the rush? Or is he the player that gets benched for showing a lack of effort and compete?
Is Kasperi Kapanen the player that can score 20 goals and solidify a spot in the top-six? Or is he merely a streaky third liner with plaguing inconsistencies? Is Kapanen a tenacious winger capable of being hard on pucks and bringing an element of toughness? Or is he so lazy that he will throw his broken stick at a puck and take one of the worst penalties in NHL history?
The answer is “yes” to all of those questions. Kasperi Kapanen has been all that and more in his ever so short Penguins career. He is an enigma for sure, as no one knows what to expect anymore. Former General Manager Jim Rutherford paid a hefty price to acquire his former first-round draft pick, but so far he has not lived up to his billing.
What is not Terribly Wrong with the Bottom Six
We’ll have to circle back with you on that one, I’m afraid. The bottom six has been a rotating cast of rather unimpressive names. One encouraging sign has been the improvements in Teddy Blueger‘s game. The Latvian center has 11 points in 22 games and improved in the face-off dot. He’s up from 45 percent last year to over 49 percent thus far this season.
Mike Sullivan simply does not give players playing time that he does not trust. He clearly does not have any faith in any of his bottom-6 players right now. With the exception of the buzzsaw line, which has rarely been intact due to injuries, no one has performed well. Mark Jankowski might be the worst attempt at filling the third line center hole we’ve seen yet. He’s won under 45 percent of face-offs and registered a Corsi-for of under 45 percent. He’s also scored only one goal in almost 20 games. Very underwhelming.
Colton Sceviour and Sam Lafferty are perfectly fine 13th and 14th forwards but injuries have forced them into the lineup. Let’s face it. Josh Currie, Drew O’Connor, and Anthony Angello should all be back in Wilkes-Barre or Norway, in O’Connor’s case. This team is getting next to nothing from the bottom-6 most nights. You simply cannot win in the NHL without good depth, and the Penguins’ new management team needed to address that yesterday.