Penguins’ Guentzel Seeks Repeat 40-Goal Season

Jake Guentzel’s performance has been increasingly productive since his first NHL game with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016. Recently, Guentzel reached the prestigious 40-goal season and he looks to repeat this milestone in the 2019-20 season. Considering the many line changes and tests the Penguins will face before locking down winning combinations, Guentzel specifically will need to be consistent in order to replicate his stellar performance from last season.

Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87), Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel
Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and right wing Bryan Rust (17) and left wing Jake Guentzel (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Guentzel tallied 40 goals and 36 assists during the 82 regular-season games in the 2018-19 season; leading the team in goals scored and landed third, behind Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel, with 76 points. Looking at Guentzel’s past success and the possibility for future success, it’s important to look at productive line pairings, but also his capacity for consistency heading into the upcoming season.

Guentzel-Crosby Line Success

Guentzel reached the 40-goal mark in the final game of the regular season against the New York Rangers. This milestone goal was assisted by Sidney Crosby and happened to be where Crosby reached the 100-point milestone for the first time since 2013-14.

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Guentzel and Crosby were originally paired together on the fly by coach Mike Sullivan, and since then, they have become a pair that can produce goal after goal. Crosby has been given some credit to Guentzel’s success, but Guentzel has skills that set him apart from the success of the Penguins’ captain.

Guentzel has the ability to find new ways to make goals and doesn’t shoot his shot from one area. He has a diversified goal-scoring toolkit and this has made him the number one goal-scorer for the Penguins last season. In addition to goal variation, Crosby has even recognized Guentzel’s smarts and ability to anticipate goals (“Penguins’ Sidney Crosby happy to have Jake Guentzel as his left-hand man” – TribLive – 12/28/18).

He is one of the smartest forwards on the team and has seen his overall game improve dramatically, always in the right position and always exactly where he needs to be to make a play.

Jake Guentzel may be the best winger Sidney Crosby has ever had

Guentzel and Crosby’s chemistry has worked well in the past but looking forward, their left wing will determine the top line’s success. There are many options for the top line, including Bryan Rust and Dominik Simon. In my opinion, Rust tends to make the top line more productive in general and could be the best match. Both Guentzel and Crosby elevate Rust’s game significantly, and by adding another consistent player to the lineup, Guentzel himself will be more productive.

Is a Repeat Possible?

Guentzel has been good at taking shots. He consistently tries to take opportunities that are fed to him from his linemates and that’s the hustle that the offense is looking for. But, consistency will help this young player score more goals and make more opportunities.

Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Currently, the Penguins are focusing on creating chemistry, bringing youth to the defense, and establishing depth offensively. Guentzel’s style of play is what the coaches are looking for from the new players, but he needs to be even more productive if he wants to repeat his performance from last season.

Guentzel’s presence has improved the offense immensely by being able to drive the puck to the net and take as many shots as possible. He is not the player to simply sit still and take shots, but instead, makes himself available and ready to take chances as they come. But it’s important that Guentzel is productive on all lines and during both special teams and full-strength opportunities.

Jake Guentzel Penguins
Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins, January 2, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This kid’s the real deal. He’s only going to get better. No stage is too big for him, either. He’s the real deal.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan

Considering that the Guentzel-Crosby combination has been successful, it’s completely possible that Guentzel could produce another 40-goal season. However, looking at changes in the lineup, he needs to fit with other linemates in order to be successful, too. That relies heavily on his consistency and if he continues to exemplify the skills that Crosby praises.