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Helping out Malkin and managing goaltenders

November 29, 2019, 9:34 AM ET [168 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Thanksgiving Eve could not have gone better if you’re a fan of the Penguins. With an arena full of people gathering before the big feast the Penguins and Canucks played a wildly entertaining game which ended 8-6. These are the games that keep people coming back for more hockey. Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, and Jake Guentzel continued their torrent pace with Malkin earning five points and his linemates earning four each. Is this a case of Evgeni Malkin stepping up his game in the absence of Crosby?

I agree with Dan and additionally life gets easier for Malkin because he finally gets to play with the team’s best winger when Crosby is out. This was the case when he got Chris Kunitz and won an MVP in 2012 and it is the case now with Jake Guentzel. Malkin seldom gets the best winger on the Penguins so when he does it is noticeable. Look at some of his wingers during the Cup runs (Fedotenko, Talbot, Rust, Kunitz when Crosby was done with him, Scott Wilson etc… Phil Kessel was the lone exception and even then HBK was a thing first. So the perceived elevation most of the time is a lot of times a bump from playing with Crosby’s favorite winger.

Malkin is currently fourth in the league with a 3.48 points per 60 with only Brad Marchand (4.72), Leon Draisaittl (3.91), and David Pastrnak (3.59) ahead of him. This was always the frustrating part about throwing decent money away at depth players. You can unlock this kind of play if you can get Malkin an above average winger, too. One of those potential options, Nikita Gusev, is currently at 3.08 5v5 points per 60 on a Devils team that has struggled the majority of the year. The Penguins are leading the league in xGF% at an amazing 56.11%. This affords you the ability to have an offense first player without sabotaging the team structure. We’ll see if Malkin can keep it up after Crosby takes back Guentzel.

The only negative I have from the game on Wednesday night is how Mike Sullivan handled the goaltenders. It should have been Tristan Jarry’s start because you didn’t want to have what happened. There is no shame in playing the backup goalie in consecutive starts when he is playing great. It doesn’t mean there is a goaltender controversy or an issue at all. You give Murray a rest to collect his thoughts and come back after Thanksgiving. Instead, Murray laid a stinker and now you have your starting goaltender in a position where he is going to be pressing and that is not a mindset to breed confidence and results. Yes, Murray needs to play better. Also, the team could manage things in a way that reward quality play from Jarry and give Murray some room to breathe. Now the pressure is palatable in a way it didn’t need to be.

Penguins play the middling Blue Jackets this evening as the quest to acquire as many points with Crosby out continues.

Thanks for reading!
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