ShareThis Page
Penguins

Five things we learned from the Penguins' two-game road trip

Jonathan Bombulie
| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, 1:27 p.m.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, left, loses control of the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang covers in the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, in Denver.
David Zalubowski/AP
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, left, loses control of the puck as Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang covers in the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, in Denver.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will return to practice Friday morning after splitting a pair of games against Winnipeg and Colorado on a quick two-game road trip this week.

The results were fitting for the Penguins, a team with one foot stuck in a horrible November and one foot trying to step forward on the road to recovery.

On the plus side, they’re out of the funk they saw them lose nine of 10 games from Oct. 30 to Nov. 17.

The results show that. They’re 3-1-2 in their past six games. Playing at that pace for a whole season would give a team 110 points in the standings and an easy playoff berth.

The underlying numbers show that. The Penguins have been in the black when it comes to shot attempts for each of their past five games.

After Wednesday night’s games, they were within two points of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and six points of first place in the Metropolitan Division.

On the minus side, they still have a long way to go to join the list of teams that have positioned themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders in the first two months of the season.

The problems lie mostly on defense. The Penguins are scoring 3.38 goals per game for the season, which ranks seventh best in the league. The Penguins are allowing 3.25 goals per game, which is ninth worst.

They’re still twice as close to last place in the division (three points) as they are to first.

The reclamation project continues with three straight home games against the Flyers, Avalanche and Islanders this week. Before that stretch begins, here are five things we learned from the team’s two-game road trip.

1. CARRIED BY THE CAPTAIN

Sidney Crosby put the team on his back and erased a 3-0 deficit Wednesday night in Colorado with the fastest hat trick of his career, scoring three times in 5 minutes, 35 seconds.

He has 13 goals and 24 points in 16 games since the start of the team’s Canadian road trip last month.

2. NET NEUTRALITY

Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry have proven that they’re good enough to help keep the Penguins afloat while Matt Murray recovers from a lower-body injury. They’ve given their team a chance to win.

That said, there were some shaky moments for both DeSmith in Winnipeg and Jarry in Colorado. Long term, the Penguins probably will need Murray to return and play well to get to where they want to go. Otherwise, general manager Jim Rutherford might have to try his luck in the rarely profitable goalie trade market.

3. MIXED RESULTS

The big question coming into the trip was whether an improving Penguins defense could handle red-hot Winnipeg winger Patrik Laine and Colorado’s prolific top line.

The answer is yes and no.

They held Laine off the scoresheet, with Jake Guentzel and Riley Sheahan memorably stepping in front of two of his shots in the final minute Tuesday night. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, on the other hand, combined to engineer four goals Wednesday night.

4. FOURTH LINE RISING

The Penguins finally got positive contributions from the fourth line on the trip. The combo of Sheahan, Derek Grant and Garrett Wilson scored twice in Winnipeg and consistently played in the offensive zone in Colorado.

5. SECOND AND THIRD FALLING

While Crosby’s line and fourth line thrived, the middle two lines faltered. Evgeni Malkin went pointless with a minus-4 rating on the trip. Bryan Rust hasn’t scored in 16 games. When Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard were on the ice together in Colorado at even strength, the Penguins were outshot, 9-1.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me