Penguins Thriving as Underdogs

Someone in the Pittsburgh Penguins front office needs to be reprimanded, because the team clearly isn’t getting their memos.

Nobody told them that the team can’t play at a high level because of their injuries.

They forgot to tell Phil Kessel, Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Trevor Daley that they are clearly disappointments this year.

Obviously the kids from Wilkes-Barre were not told that they were part of the worst farm system in the NHL.

Also, why didn’t anyone tell Kris Letang that he should have been traded by now? Or let Sidney Crosby that Connor McDavid is the best player in the world now?

What poor communication.

All sarcasm aside, nobody could ask for a better roll than the one that the Penguins are on.

Every night a different player, or line, is stepping up and taking control.

Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, and Chris Kunitz have won games. Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Tom Kühnhackl have taken over at times. Kris Letang has been otherworldly. Even Trevor Daley has had a huge impact.

Lately, the line of Kessel, Hagelin, and Bonino have dominated.

Kessel and Hagelin were supposed to fall apart without the injured Evgeni Malkin. Bonino wasn’t supposed to be able to carry Malkin’s equipment bag, let alone fill in for him. Not only have they proven people wrong, they have done it in a big way.

As seen in the above Tweet, the Penguins second-line has put up a lot of points recently, and their outstanding possession numbers reflect this. In the game against the Red Wings, the top Corsi plus/minus on the team were Bonino (+16), Hagelin (+15), and Kessel (+13).

The trio could easily be called the “Rutherford line” because each player represents dramatic moves that General Manager Jim Rutherford has made. The results have been…unique at times, but they are paying off at the right moment.

Bonino was questionable prior to the game in Detroit after being injured in practice. Boy are the Penguins glad that he played. 1 goal, 4 assists, and 16:44 time on ice. A huge game for the former Vancouver Canucks center.

Kessel has been somewhat of a disappointment this year, but appears to be coming on. His overall game is evolving with his new linemates. But the best part of all is that he is starting to score, and his goals are the filthy goals that we all love to see. He is known for scoring in bunches, so look out NHL.

Then there is Carl Hagelin. I can honestly say that of all of Rutherford’s acquisitions, Hagelin is the one that I enjoy watching the most. It is the rare player that grabs your attention every time he steps on the ice. People notice Crosby. People notice Alex Ovechkin. People notice Hagelin.

No I am not suggesting that Hagelin’s skillset is anywhere near that of Crosby and Ovechkin, but sheer on ice presence, he is there. He is simply a joy to watch with his speed and hustle, he makes things happen. I could write an entire article gushing about Hagelin and why the Penguins are lucky to have him, but I will simply say this. The man is a beast.

The players from Wilkes-Barre have given the Penguins their best depth in years.

Sheary, Rust, and company have been a pleasant surprise. For a farm system bereft of talent, the team isn’t doing too bad.

Combine the talented youth, with the veterans in Eric Fehr, and Matt Cullen, and you have yourselves four solid lines that you can roll every night. There have been games that the Penguins have won solely because of their fourth-line.

Sheary has done his best Tyler Johnson impression, while Rust looks like a better version of Tyler Kennedy. Not only have these AHL promotions given their talent to the team, they have infused emotion and exuberance that the team has been lacking for a number of years.

Sheary, Rust, Kühnhackl, and the injured Scott Wilson have been a joy to watch. They are not expecting scoring titles, or the Stanley Cup. They are just trying to solidify their roles in the hockey world, and doing a great job of it.

Then there is Matty Murray. With Marc-Andre Fleury, Murray has given the Penguins a number 1 and 1A netminder situation. The team can be confident that either goalie can give the Penguins a chance at a win every night.

What an exciting time to follow the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I don’t normally like to embed my own Tweets into a posting, but I wanted to include this one, because I think that it speaks volumes.

Until next time.