With the news that forwards Sidney Crosby and Nick Bjugstad both had surgery and will be out 6-8 weeks, the Pittsburgh Penguins are in another lineup predicament. Even with all the injuries the team has suffered, they seamlessly shuffled their lines.
With two heartbreaking losses in overtime against the New York Islanders, they responded well with a decisive victory against the New Jersey Devils to finish the week 1-0-2. While a point is always nice, both games against the Islanders could have been won if not for ill-timed penalties. Even though the Penguins lost twice this week, a few players stood out and elevated their game to the next level.
Third Star: Brandon Tanev
Signing a six-year contract this past offseason, Brandon Tanev was subject to criticism upon his arrival. He has quickly silenced the critics and has become a fan favorite for his speed and grit. Moving up to the second line as a result of various injuries, Tanev has developed incredible chemistry with Jared McCann. In Tuesday’s matchup against the Islanders, he scored two goals in a 5-4 overtime loss. Getting to the front of the net and screening the goalie, he redirected a shot from John Marino to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead.
His second goal of the night was a nifty wraparound shot that he bounced off an Islanders defender that gave the Penguins a 3-2 lead. In the final game of the week against the Devils, he had the secondary assist on McCann’s goal that made it 3-1 in the third period. Since moving up to the second line, he is averaging almost 15 minutes of ice time and proving he can play anywhere the Penguins need him to.
Nov. 17-23 Stat Line: 2 goals, 1 assist, plus-1
Second Star: Jake Guentzel
Missing his partner-in-crime Crosby, Jake Guentzel has not missed a beat. On a four-game point streak, he has developed some terrific chemistry with Evgeni Malkin, someone he has limited experience playing with. In the first meeting against the Islanders, he assisted on Bryan Rust’s power-play goal to open the scoring. He later added a power-play goal of his own after receiving a pass from Alex Galchenyuk, which he calmly kicked to himself before controlling it and slotting past the netminder.
With a nice assist to open the scoring in the second game against the Islanders, he passed the puck into open ice for a diving Malkin to put into the back of the net. Against the Devils, he scored what would ultimately be the game-winning goal after receiving a one-time pass from Malkin. He was sprung on a breakaway, waited for the goaltender to make the first move and simply passed it in on his backhand. Guentzel has scored in five of the last six home games for Pittsburgh, and is well on his way to another impressive season.
Nov. 17-23 Stat Line: 2 goals, 2 assists, plus-3
First Star: Bryan Rust
Perhaps one of the hottest player right now for the Penguins, if not the entire league, Rust is playing at an extremely high level, one that most fans didn’t expect. Rumored to be part of a trade package before the season started, there is no way the Penguins can trade him now with how good he is playing. Having only played in 12 games, he has 13 points and is well on his way to a career season. He started the week off strong with the opening goal on the power play in the home matchup against the Islanders. (from ‘Longtime Penguins penalty-killer Bryan Rust gets time on power play’ Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 11/20/2019) Picking up a loose puck, he gained possession and elevated the puck glove side to continue his fine run of form.
He added his second goal of the week against the Islanders after he picked up the puck and skated in all alone, once again going glove side to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead. He capped off another strong week by starting the sequence of Guentzel’s goal. Some quick passing was a delight to watch, and the Penguins carved up the Devils’ defense en route to the goal. As one of four Penguins riding a four-game point streak, Rust has taken his game to the next level to keep them in the playoff conversation. While he doesn’t always get the attention that others guys do, without him, the Penguins would not be where they are today.
Nov. 17-23 Stat Line: 2 goals, 1 assist, plus-1
Each week, an updated point system will be in place. 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
- Bryan Rust- 6 points
- Evgeni Malkin- 5 points
- Jared McCann- 5 points
- Brandon Tanev- 4 points
- Matt Murray- 3 points
- Dominik Simon- 3 points
- Jake Guentzel- 2 points
- Patric Hornqvist- 2 points
- Kris Letang- 2 points
- Dominik Kahun- 1 point
- Sam Lafferty- 1 point
- John Marino- 1 point