All season, the Pittsburgh Penguins have had injury issues. They have played just two periods with a fully healthy roster. Week after week, different guys are needed to fill the void for an injured player. This week was no exception. Injuries to Sidney Crosby and Nick Bjugstad have seen some familiar names rise to the occasion.
Going 1-1-1 this week, including a loss to the last-place New Jersey Devils, the Penguins will need players to continue elevating their game to stay in the playoff race. A 6-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs put a positive note on an otherwise tough week for the Penguins. Certain players throughout this week stood out among the rest. Every Sunday, we will take a look at the Penguins’ three stars and highlight the club’s best performing players of the week.
Third Star: Dominik Kahun
On Nov. 2, Dominik Kahun was a healthy scratch against the Edmonton Oilers. The following day, Patric Hornqvist was placed on injured reserve and Kahun took his place in the lineup. Since then, he has been playing his best hockey in a Penguins uniform. He has been lively and is hovering around 14 minutes of ice time per night. He has carved out a nice role for himself on the second line alongside Jared McCann.
In the final game of the week against the Maple Leafs, Kahun had two goals and an assist, all in the second period. His first goal was scored just 52 seconds into the second period and set the tone for another strong period. The second goal was very opportunistic as he capitalized on Brandon Tanev getting tripped into the goaltender and put the puck in the basically empty net. He capped off a three-point night with a nifty pass to McCann that gave the Penguins a five-goal lead. Kahun has been playing his best hockey of late and the Penguins need him to continue contributing and playing well.
Nov. 10-16 Stat Line: 2 goals, 1 assist, plus-2
Second Star: Jared McCann
You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him. McCann has continued to perform at a very high level. He certainly has contributed more than Bjugstad since arriving in Pittsburgh via trade last season. He ended the streak of 28 unsuccessful power plays for the Penguins with the game-tying goal against the New York Rangers. He was in the right place at the right time as the puck fell nicely to him and he blasted it past the Rangers netminder to end the worst run of power-play form since the 80s for the Penguins.
With Crosby and Bjugstad going down against the Rangers, he once again was thrust back into the center position and he has yet again filled in well. Winning 61.5% of his faceoffs against the Devils, he had his best night in the faceoff circle of the season. He capped off a strong week with a goal against the Maple Leafs to make it 5-0 on his only shot of the night. With Crosby out until at least Christmas, McCann is going to need to maintain this high level of play to keep the Penguins in contention.
Nov. 10-16 Stat Line: 2 goals, plus-4
First Star: Evgeni Malkin
After missing the first 12 games of the season, Malkin has been on a tear. With Crosby out, he assumed first-line center duties and in two games, he has filled the void as well as anyone could have expected. Before the game against the Devils, he addressed the need for him to step up and be the leader:
“Everyone is looking to me right now,” he said. “I will try to show leadership, I will try to play smart. It’s not the first time I’ve been here without Sid. I know it’s not easy, but I’m ready. I’ve played for this team for a long time. It’s nothing new for me… I need to be fire,” he said with a smile. “I will be fire.”– Evgeni Malkin
Even though they didn’t produce a goal against the Devils, Malkin’s line was dominant. He had seven shots and logged just over 21 minutes of ice time in a 2-1 loss. He picked up the secondary assist on Jake Guentzel’s power-play goal to open the scoring in the first period, which was the first time the Penguins have scored first in seven games. Later in the first, he made it 2-0 by shooting the puck underneath the goaltenders’ glove.
Having to fill the void Crosby left, expect Malkin to occasionally center another line in close games to give him more minutes. With nine points in nine games, he has started the season strong and is key to the teams’ success. Look for the Penguins to lean on the Russian center for the foreseeable future.
Nov. 10-16 Stat Line: 1 goal, 2 assists, plus-2
Each week, a point system will be in place that will be updated. The third star receives one point, the second star receives two, and the first star gets three. Agree or disagree with the stars of the week? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @joshkaradeema.
- Sidney Crosby- 7 points
- Evgeni Malkin- 5 points
- Jared McCann- 5 points
- Matt Murray- 3 points
- Bryan Rust- 3 points
- Dominik Simon- 3 points
- Brandon Tanev- 3 points
- Patric Hornqvist-2 points
- Kris Letang- 2 points
- Dominik Kahun- 1 point
- Sam Lafferty- 1 point
- John Marino- 1 point