There is no getting around the fact the Penguins laid an egg yesterday against the Flyers. Even when they scored twice after trailing 4-0 they still managed to lose the third period to the Flyers 3-2. It was an underwhelming performance. And you know what? It’s fine. The game really doesn’t mean anything. The Penguins are going to the playoffs. It is just a matter of who they will play. Even if they won out to close the season it wouldn’t guarantee a favorable matchup.
The only thing that matters right now is Evgeni Malkin getting acclimated to game speed again and the overall health of the roster. I thought Geno looked decent enough considering how much time he missed. He finished the night with an assist, which came on the power play, so he has points in nine straight games he has finished dating back to pre-injury. Malkin played 14 minutes and I expect that number to grow in the following games.
The power play was two for four with both units scoring a goal. The power play will be fine with Malkin rejoining the top unit. Last night we even got a classic #SidDownLow goal with one of his vintage chop redirections from the goal line.
Those chop tips never get old. There was another Penguin who was halfway decent at them as well. The current owner used to use them. In fact, it was his last career goal. Mario was so good at it he could make it work from the low slot.
While I don’t care about the Penguins losing 7-2 in a one off game I do care their backup goaltender was injured and had to leave the game last night. Casey DeSmith left the game in the second period and did not return. Tristan Jarry will be starting tonight. The Penguins have had a good 1a/1b situation so far this year. Jarry has the potential to be a very good goalie for the Penguins in the playoffs and he also has the ability to have a cold stretch. He is not unlike the lion’s share of other NHL goalies in this regard. Having DeSmith, who is also having a solid season, ready to come in if needed was a nice option. Now? It gets a lot dicier if Jarry plays poorly.
Another variable worth keeping tabs on is the play of the top line which hasn't been as good as of late.
I've touched on this a few times but the Guentzel-Crosby-Rust line simply hasn't been very good for a while now.
Since March 18:
18 goals for 17 goals against
Quality of chances they're giving up heavily outweigh the chances they're creating (sub 47% expected goals share).
The two teams will play again this evening. Will Evgeni Malkin get more minutes and look the part? Will the team avoid injury? Will the top line start to play like the top line again? Those are the three most important things. I would also expect a much better effort from the team overall, but that comes in a distant fourth for me.