The Washington Capitals finally broke through and defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-1. The Capitals deserved to win the game and outplayed the Penguins throughout the contest. One of the positives for Pittsburgh was the play of Tristan Jarry who played his best game of the season finishing with a .929 save percentage. The loss puts the Penguins in fifth place the division and Washington takes over the fourth place spot two points ahead of Pittsburgh with the same number of games played. The Islanders have been beating up the Sabres this week and are now in second four points clear of the Penguins. Pittsburgh will have a back to back against the Islanders this week and will be able to potentially erase that deficit.
Moving forward the Penguins need to figure out what is going on with Evgeni Malkin. They are nowhere without him so if he needs help you might have to give him help. You also need to find out if he even needs help or if the Zucker/Kapanen duo needs to step up. If I’m being honest it is more so Zucker who needs to pick it up.
Malkin hasn’t looked great throughout the year, but games like last night you can see him working hard and trying to do things, but there just isn’t any support. Jason Zucker is having a bad year. Out of 140 forwards who have played 175 minutes he has an xGF% of 43.25 which ranks 128. Zucker was a 55.15 xGF% player the previous there years so something is going on. How much of that is him, how much of it is Malkin, how much of it is chemistry? The team needs to find these answers out sooner than later and there is a really simple way to do it.
Swap Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
I am fully aware how great the Guentzel-Crosby-Rust line is playing. They have been awesome, but that’s the point. You know for a fact they are a great line. You don’t need to learn more about it. You can always go back to it at any point. It is a known commodity. We also know Crosby works fine with Jason Zucker. Zucker has been pretty bad this year. Let’s see if Zucker can improve his play with Crosby who he has had success with. Let’s see if Kapanen can even play with Sid. We know Guentzel-Malkin-Rust was amazing last year. If it is great again this year it can alleviate some of the anxiety about Malkin’s play. If they are bad then we can zero in on Malkin being an issue. I would want to know the answers to these questions. I think now is the time to find them out. Switch up the lines and see what happens for a couple of games. You’ll have a better idea of where to direct your attention for potential fixes.
Thanks for reading!