The Pittsburgh Penguins had a terrible month of December by going 6-8. A 6-8 record isn’t bad for some teams but not if you are the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. Pittsburgh’s record so far this season is 19-18-3 with 41 points. They currently sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh is three points back of the New York Islanders for the second wild card spot in the east.
If seems when Pittsburgh wins one game, they go two step backwards. Pittsburgh has scored 111 goals this season and given up 128 goals. The Penguins record this season when they score three goals or more is 17-4-2. When they don’t Pittsburgh’s record is 2-14-1. It seems as if that is the formula for the Penguins to win but it is easier said than done.
Pittsburgh plays five divisional games this month, 12 overall, and two back-to-backs. They also will be heading to California for a road trip in the middle of the month.
Phil Kessel leads the team with 42 points (16 goals and 26 assists). Evgeni Malkin has scored 14 goals and recorded 22 assists so far this season. Sidney Crosby has scored 14 goals and recorded 21 assists so far this season.
Kris Letang has scored two goals and recorded 23 assists so far this season. His plus/minus is a dreaded -15. Patric Hornqvist has scored 12 goals and 12 assists so far this season. Jake Guentzel has scored 13 goals and recorded 10 assists so far this season.
Other than those players, the Penguins only have 36 goals combined which is a concern. They are getting the depth scoring they used too. Pittsburgh doesn’t have Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Scott Wilson, or Chris Kunitz anymore.
They recently called up Daniel Sprong to give them a spark who has scored 18 goals and recorded seven assists in 29 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL). Dominik Simon was recently called up again. He has played in six games at the NHL level this season, and Simon has recorded two assists. Simon has scored four goals and recorded 13 assists in 21 games at the AHL level this season.
Pittsburgh acquired defenseman Jamie Olesiak in a trade in the middle of December. He is a good defenseman for them and he fits the scheme. The Pittsburgh Penguins miss Justin Schultz on the back end big time. He has missed the last 11 games for the Penguins with a lower-body injury. Schultz has scored two goals and recorded eight assists in 23 games so far this season. He is the best Penguins defenseman on the team.
Olli Maatta has been playing better as of late. In 40 games, he has scored three goals and recorded 13 assists despite having a plus/minus of -8. Brian Dumoulin has a plus/minus of -11, but that’s because he is with Letang most of the time. Dumoulin has been good all year long otherwise.
It is going to be interesting what they do with defenseman Ian Cole before the trade deadline. He is a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If management feels like Pittsburgh won’t go anywhere this season, they will probably trade him. If they feel like they could for a three-peat, then they will try and keep him.
Pittsburgh should try and trade Carl Hagelin. He isn’t worth the $4 million and he has another year left on his contract. Hagelin has only scored two goals and recorded four assists in 39 games this season. His plus/minus is -3. He doesn’t provide much offense to the team. Ryan Reaves doesn’t provide much offense either. He has scored one goal and recorded two assists in 40 games this season. His plus/minus is -8.
Reaves was brought in to protect Crosby and Malkin, but that experiment is obviously not working. He is a free agent at the end of the season and they probably won’t bring him back.
If the Penguins are in it at the trade deadline, expect general manager Jim Rutherford to make a move. If not, expect him to anyways but in a different manner.
Matt Murray’s record is 14-11-1 with a .902 save percentage and a 2.98 GAA, along with one shutout. Tristan Jarry’s record is 5-3-2 with a .921 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA, along with one shutout.
The Pittsburgh Penguins need to show a sense of urgency if they want to make it to the playoffs and the panic meter should be pretty high right now. The possibility of making it to the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season is questionable right now. This month will decide whether or not the Penguins will make it to the playoffs this season.