Honestly, coming into this season, I was worried that we were approaching the phase where our stars are getting older and our Cup chances are dropping. Especially with the Penguins being as injury prone as they are.
Well, the injury prone issue is alive and well this season, having at one point lost our leader and captain Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz, Nick Bjustad, Bryan Rust, Alex Galchenyuk and numerous others, too many for me to even really remember.
That’s wild. Our team this year has been absolutely decimated. Malkin was out for a significant amount of time, as well as Sidney Crosby.
Our captain has been out since November 14th, and still hasn’t returned. He had to have muscle injury repair surgery, and that has held him out from then until now. He’s quickly on the way to playing, and even traveled with the team for this current road trip, but still isn’t in the lineup.
With all these injuries, you’d think the Penguins wouldn’t be in a very good spot at the moment. Literally no one would fault you for thinking that, 9 out of 10 teams would struggle when it comes to situations like these. Have the Penguins?
Short answer, no. Not at all.
They are currently sitting pretty tied at 4th with the Islanders in the NHL. Their current record is 26-12-5, with a +30 goal differential.
How have they performed since Crosby has been out with injury? 14-9-2. Without the best player in the league, the Penguins have STILL managed to put up a winning record. They haven’t let the injury deter them at all, pushing through all sorts of adversity to remain a dominant force in the league. Crosby has been out for 25 of the Penguins 43 games.
This speaks VOLUMES of what Mike Sullivan can do to keep his team under control, keep their heads up and keep them focused on the task at hand. What’s he has managed to do with all the injuries and roadblocks he’s faced this year is unimaginable. He’s currently being discussed as the #1 choice for the Jack Adams Award or the NHL Coach of the Year, as he 100% should be.
The man has made something out of seemingly nothing. He’s created a success story out of misery and injuries. He’s created a system that has propelled our team to have 16 players with at LEAST 10 points. 16!!!!
8 players with 20 or more, and 3 with over 30. Sidney Crosby is currently sitting at 9th on the team in points.
Look at the players who have stepped up to pick up the workload with the NHL’s best player sidelined. Jake Guentzel LEADING THE TEAM, Evgeni Malkin where he should be, but take a gander at the players after. Bryan Rust, Jared McCann, Dominik Kahun, Brandon Tanev, John Marino. None of those players are really players you’d expect to be putting up the numbers they are, with the exception of maybe Jared McCann. Kris Letang is putting up big numbers as well, but I don’t think many people are surprised by that.
This is amazing, honestly it truly is. We’re witnessing a team full of AHL players putting up numbers that rival the best teams in the league, propelling us to being one of the best teams in the league. With our star goaltender Matt Murray spiraling out of control with his play, we had yet ANOTHER AHL player step up and wrestle the number one spot from him in Tristan Jarry. That’s insane.
The level of play we are getting from our players from the AHL has put us into the position where we can legitimately have trade talks for Matt Murray, and it not sound like a rebuild. If you would have asked me 2 years ago if we would be in the position to trade Matt Murray, after keeping him over Fleury, in a couple years, I’d have laughed in your face. Here we are though, and I’m loving it. I’m loving the grit, the tenacity, the perseverance of this team. I’m loving that we can be in the position to trade Matt Murray because Sullivan has the confidence in Tristan Jarry to be the goaltender we were expecting him to be. That we have the confidence in our lineup full of AHLers to lead us into the playoffs and not be solely dependent on a showstopping performance from our goaltender corp.
This season has been magical for the Penguins, and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon. Once Sidney Crosby comes back, and that will be soon don’t you doubt, the fire under the Penguins will be in full overdrive, and we’ll be blazing through the back half of this season.
You absolutely LOVE to see it. Hell yes. LET’S GO PENS.