The Pittsburgh Penguins are second in the Metropolitan Division, and unless something catastrophic happens, they should easily make the playoffs. This is in large part thanks to the first line made up of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and Bryan Rust. In their 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers on Mar. 8, all three of the Penguins’ goals came from their top line. Lately, the team’s depth scoring has been almost non-existent, which is something that needs to be corrected quickly.
Penguins’ Secondary Scoring Woes
With the exception of Evgeni Malkin, the bottom three lines have been mediocre at best. With players like Brock McGinn only scoring two goals in his last 23 games and Kasperi Kapanen only scoring one goal in his last 24 games, it is hard not to question the Penguins’ current formula. General manager Ron Hextall spoke with members of the media on Friday, Mar. 11 about the team’s status, and the lack of secondary scoring was mentioned. That night at PPG Paints Arena, the Vegas Golden Knights came to town, and it was clear that the Penguins had heard their GM loud and clear.
Forward Jeff Carter, who plays on the third line with Kapanen, found the net early in the second period. Before Friday, Carter had been in a slump with no goals in his last 10 games. Center Evan Rodrigues also scored on an empty-net goal in the third period. Rodrigues had only scored one goal in his last 25 games before Friday’s contest. The Penguins’ defense also played a crucial part in their 5-2 victory over the Golden Knights, with goals coming from Mike Matheson and Mark Friedman. Head coach Mike Sullivan was pleased to see goals coming from somewhere other than his first line.
Related: Penguins: 3 Trade Destinations for Kasperi Kapanen
The Penguins brought the momentum from Friday’s win into their second home game of the weekend when they hosted the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday, Mar. 13. Danton Heinen, who plays on Malkin’s left-wing, found the net in the Pens’ 4-2 victory. Before Sunday, Heinen had only scored three goals in his last 22 games. Zach Aston-Reese also scored on Sunday, breaking his scoring drought of only one goal in his last 50 games.
Penguins Trending in the Right Direction
It seems that the Penguins’ secondary scoring may be getting back on track, but with the trade deadline fast approaching, changes could be on the way. Kapanen was benched against the Golden Knights, but not because of injury. It was his first healthy scratch of the season. However, he went right back into the lineup on Sunday but it seems that move may have been out of necessity.
Kapanen replaced McGinn who suffered an injury against Vegas. He had a relatively quiet game, which only added more fuel to the trade rumors that have been surrounding him during the second half of the season. With his $3.2 million salary and the Pens needing to free up cap space, a Kapanen trade might be the answer. Hextall has already said if he can add another forward upfront for the right price, he will do just that.
The last two wins in Pittsburgh were good team wins. With more scoring coming from outside of the top line and also from the defense, the Penguins showcased their versatility. That is something they will need to continue to do as they head into the playoffs. However, after the comments from Hextall, it seems that more players stepped up and played with more urgency, almost as if they were playing for their job.