The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently in second place in the Metropolitan Division and have won their last six games. If they continue to find success through the second half of the year, they are on track to make the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season. This is the longest playoff streak in North American sports and something Pittsburgh fans have come to expect from their team.
During the offseason, the Penguins made the decision to re-sign Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in the hopes of chasing another championship with their core. This year simply making the playoffs will not be good enough, as they have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2018. This postseason the team will be looking to prove that they made the right decision in keeping the core together.
Penguins’ Keys to Success
The Penguins have been finding success with all four lines lately, which is something that needs to continue. Captain Sidney Crosby is in his 18th season and playing some of the best hockey of his career. At 35 years old, he is one of the oldest players on the team, but he isn’t showing signs of slowing down. He has played in 29 games and scored 17 goals and 21 assists for a total of 38 points. It is a little early to start discussing Hart Trophy candidates, but the Penguins’ captain should definitely be a part of the discussion when the time comes.
Jake Guentzel, who plays on Crosby’s left wing, has been doing what he does best. Scoring goals. He has played in 25 games and scored 13 goals with 16 assists for a total of 29 points. At 5-foot-11, he is hardly the biggest guy out on the ice, but there is no doubt he is one of the toughest. He is not afraid to put his body in harm’s way to score, which is one of the reasons he is such a huge key to the Penguins’ success. He is easily one of the most underrated players in the NHL.
Malkin, who is a year older than Crosby, has spent the first part of the season proving why it was the right decision to re-sign him. He just played in his 1,000th game on Nov. 20 in the Penguins’ 5-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. He has played in 29 games this year and is averaging a point per game. His skating is as good if not better than ever, and if he can stay healthy, he will be a key ingredient to a successful postseason.
Penguins’ goalie Tristan Jarry has been nothing short of outstanding lately. In his last 11 starts, he holds a 9-0-2 record. His current save percentage is .920, and he has more than made up for his poor performance during the team’s seven-game losing streak. Jarry is currently in the last year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. If he continues to perform at a high level, they should consider signing him sooner rather than later as other teams will no doubt start to take notice.
The bottom six has also been pulling their weight lately, which is another huge key to the Penguins’ success. Third-line center Jeff Carter has been excellent on faceoffs this season, winning almost 60 percent of his draws. Brock McGinn, who plays on his left wing, has also been a scoring threat with eight goals so far this season.
Tough Road Ahead
The Penguins have been able to stay uncharacteristically healthy this season and have been turning in a complete team performance night after night. The way they have been playing lately suggests they will have no problem advancing past the first round of the playoffs. But first, they will have to get through the second stretch of the regular season with some tough games coming up in their schedule. The Penguins will face two division rivals in the Carolina Hurricanes and the New York Rangers before January.