Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jake Guentzel is quietly becoming one of the team’s most dominant players. His steady production this season has helped keep the Penguins marching toward the playoffs and considered contenders. It’s funny to think before the season there were questions of how he would respond after only playing four games in all of the 2020 calendar year. He answered by picking up where he left off.
Penguins Leading Goal Scorer
Guentzel is the Penguins’ best player not named Sidney Crosby this season. He has 46 points this season, two points shy of tying his second career high with 40 fewer games played. His 20 goals this season lead the Penguins and are ranked 11th in the league. It is the fourth straight season he has scored 20 goals and he is one of five players in the league who have reached the 20-goal mark every year since the 2017-18 season. The other four players are Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and Alexander Ovechkin. Elite company, to say the least. The team isn’t the only one who has benefited from his goal-scoring success. Fans are drinking up Guentzel’s goal scoring by receiving half off Jake’s Shakes at a local Pittsburgh milkshake store the day after he scores a goal. Scoring has never tasted so sweet.
If it weren’t for the shortened season, he would be giving his career numbers a run for their money. Guentzel has only gone pointless in back-to-back games twice this year, the last time was Feb. 16 and 18. His and the first line’s consistency this season has helped the Penguins weather the latest injury storms. In the last 15 games since Evgeni Malkin went down with an injury, Guentzel has recorded a point in 13 of them.
Pittsburgh is still just three points shy of first place in the MassMutual East Division and locked in a battle that is sure to last until the final days of the regular season. The Penguins need him and the first line to continue their production if they want to make it past the first round in the playoffs for the first time in two seasons.
Missed Most of 2020
Last season Guentzel suffered a shoulder injury at the end of December 2019 and did not return for the rest of the 2020 regular season. It was the first major injury of his career. He only suited up for four games in all of 2020, which were in the playoff bubble. The Penguins were upset in the play-in round by the Montreal Canadiens. Guentzel was able to squash any questions of whether he would be rusty going into this season with all the extra time off. He credited the extra recovery time with giving him more confidence in his game.
As the numbers show, Guentzel is just in the beginning of his prime. Even with only playing 39 games last season, he still finished third in goals on the team behind Malkin and Bryan Rust. There’s been so much focus on the veteran’s production, everyone has forgotten to praise Guentzel. He has emerged as one of their young leaders. He is the perfect counterpart to Crosby, but he’s not just the product of Crosby. His consistent numbers since entering the league have spoken for themselves.
The Penguins are clearly going for the win-now approach, but he is one of their keys to the future. He is just tapping into his full potential and the team has a lot of exciting hockey from him to look forward to. There is one question that still remains, is he only scoring goals for the half-off shakes?
Native Long Islander who graduated from St. John’s University in 2018. I have been an avid hockey fan since childhood when my dad decided to get NHL Network. I am excited to be covering the Penguins this season!