The Penguins can only not be the Penguins for so long. They’ve surprisingly had struggles scoring goals all season, especially at even strength. They rank 19th in the NHL in goals per game, which is very un-Penguin-like.
Well you are witnessing the end of the offensive drought. The Penguins are back.
The Penguins have scored 5 goals in each of their last 2 games, which is a small sample size, but it has significance:
The first of these 2 games came against the Tampa Bay Lightning, arguably the hottest team in hockey along with St. Louis. Although their starting goaltender, Andrei Vasileskiy, was not manning the crease for the Lightning, the Penguins were starting their backup, Tristan Jarry, in the tail-end of a back-to-back scenario. The Penguins not only won this game, but put an exclamation point on the win. They were clearly the better team throughout the game, and it showed on the scoreboard.
The second of these 2 games was against the Philadelphia Flyers who, despite not having a great season thus far, always show up against the Penguins. In addition, they unfortunately own the Penguins at Consol/PPG Paints, so a win was far from automatic. Not only did the Penguins score 5 goals in this game, but they battled back on multiple occasions by erasing 3-1 and 4-3 deficits.
The defense absolutely still needs improvement. They have been over-aggressive in the offensive zone and thus allowing opponents to have way too many odd-man chances. That said, their offense is starting to show signs of life. More importantly, the scorers are starting to score, and the Penguins are beginning to get some scoring from their depth guys:
After a rough start, Bryan Rust has looked fantastic in his past couple of games and has netted a couple of goals as a reward for his play. I thought the line of him, Carter Rowney, and Carl Hagelin played extremely well against the Flyers. They had multiple extended shifts and kept Philly pinned in their own end.
Jake Guentzel has 7 goals in his last 8 games, confirming that he is a pure goal-scorer when he is on his game. Guentzel had a rough start to the season, but he is starting to find his groove and regaining his confidence going into early December. Look for Guentzel to continue what he has been doing his past few games.
Phil Kessel has been straight up unbelievable. He is tied for 4th in the NHL in points, and he leads the Penguins in every offensive category. He is having an MVP-caliber season if he continues his play. He has become the cornerstone of the Penguins power play, and has found his scoring touch as well.
Remember when Sidney Crosby died? Again? Yeah, he’s fine. Dominating Philly, scoring OT winners, and scoring 9 points in his last 4 games, including 6 in his last 2. He is going to be okay, and now that he has found his game, look out. Remember what happened last time Crosby fell off the face of the earth? It just might happen again…
Oh, and not to mention, the Penguins have scored 5 in their past 2 games without Evgeni Malkin, who will hopefully be back soon.
The Penguins are now done with the most difficult part of their schedule. They play Buffalo in a home-and-home series this coming weekend which leads into a 5 game homestand.
The Penguins are on the verge of an offensive outbreak: it starts now.