It’s hard to feel confident in a team that just lost to the Buffalo Sabres.
To be fair, the Sabres dropped some dead weight at the trade deadline, including older players who had not bought into their system, and they trotted out a young and fast team to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2, on Sunday.
While a loss to the worst team in the NHL is deflating, there are still a few things to be excited about. The Penguins won two of their three games last week and have won five of their last six. Hopefully, they will start to get some healthy bodies into the lineup to pick up momentum for a playoff push.
Carter a Good Fit
While many people thought general manager Ron Hextall and company would make a few moves at last Monday’s trade deadline, the Penguins settled for just the one trade, acquiring Jeff Carter from the Los Angeles Kings for a conditional third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft as well as a conditional fourth-round pick in 2023.
This was the right choice. Why shake things up on a team that has found its groove in the last few weeks? There’s no need to make a bunch of trades when the Penguins have proven they can play with the best teams in the division. Every team that makes a few deals at the deadline then has to go through a period of adjustment for chemistry and timing. In this shortened season, and considering how Pittsburgh is chasing down the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders for the top spot in the division, one move was more than enough.
Lucky for Carter and the Penguins, they haven’t needed time to form chemistry, and he has already shown to be great fit. Carter was noticeable in his first game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, when he earned a fantastic scoring opportunity, driving the net and almost sliding one past the left pad of Flyers goalie Carter Hart. He eventually notched his first point on Sunday against the Sabres on Jason Zucker’s goal.
It will be interesting to see where Carter finds himself when Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen return to the lineup. Will he be pushed to the wing alongside Malkin and Kapanen, or will he man the third-line center position for depth reasons?
McCann’s Power Play Prowess Shining
Speaking of Malkin and Kapanen’s injuries, their absence opened up an opportunity for Jared McCann.
McCann was bumped up to the top power-play unit and immediately made it much, much better. Until March 24, McCann had just one power-play goal on the season. Now, he is tied for the team-lead with six. He also tallied seven goals and 14 points in that time.
What McCann is doing right is shooting the puck. He has a good wrist shot, and the more he lets it rip, the better for the team’s success. He also is just two goals away from matching his career-high in goals (14) while playing just a little under half of the games this season. What took McCann 66 games last season he is doing in a little over 30 this year.
Of course, it would be nice to keep McCann on the top unit, but when Malkin and/or Kapanen return, it wouldn’t hurt to have him on the second unit to provide two lethal groups.
Pittsburgh activated defenseman Mark Friedman off the injured list Sunday after his roller coaster of a game with Philadelphia on March 4, in which he scored his first NHL goal before a hit from Nolan Patrick put him into concussion protocol.
The Penguins also recalled forward Anthony Angello from the taxi squad on Sunday only to put him back on the taxi squad later that day.
The Penguins will be back in action on Tuesday when they host the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m.