Jeff Carter is better than your team's trade deadline pickup
Things are going pretty well for the Pittsburgh Penguins at the moment. Their trade deadline acquisition is amongst the better ones in recent memory, the top line is starting to find its footing again, the power play is looking good (both of them), and the game results have been positive as well.
The few things left to sort out are getting Brandon Tanev and Mike Matheson back in the lineup and for Evgeni Malkin to work out getting used to the puck again.
Let’s start with the overwhelmingly positive returns of the Jeff Carter trade. He’s been amazing. He is everything the team needed and then some. He provides a huge amount of roster flexibility and solidfies the third line they’ve been searching for all year. This was true before the four goal outburst last night, but it goes to show just how effective he can be in providing some offensive depth.
This was Carter’s first career four goal game. If you can believe it, this is something neither Sidney Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin have ever done, wild.
No way would I have guessed Crosby and Malkin haven’t had a four goal game. It feels like they both would have found their way to four goals at some point.
As for Carter in his 13 games since becoming a Penguin he has a CF% of 53.74, an xGF% of 53.78, and 5v5 points per 60 of 3.06. He is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Penguins and their ability to roll out more effective scoring lines. This gets the Penguins closer to the 2015-16 model and if I had to pick one to follow the 2015-16 one would be it. They were a buzzsaw.
The Penguins put up an eight spot, but they gave up four. Is it a problem? I don’t think so. The Penguins were dominant last night. Their forecheck was relentless and they did not give up a lot of scoring chances. They only gave up 3 high-dangers chances and 16 shots total at 5v5. Their xGF% for the game at 5v5 was 70.55%(!). The SAbres were opportunistic with the few chances they had. I thought the Penguins did a nice job. Mike Sullivan agrees
Given the opponent and how easy it is to look towards the playoffs with only two games (now one) left I think the Penguins put up a real strong performance all things considered.
The one thing I think that needs to improve is Evgeni Malkin’s puck handling. He’s rusty. The good news is his skating looks fine. At the beginning of the year when Malkin was struggling it looked like he needed to find his legs. I think finding your legs takes longer. The puck handling with come with more touches. Does anybody honestly believe Malkin’s hands are gone and will never return? I sure don’t. I think Malkin has the potential to be himself in the playoffs. Especially now the Penguins have multiple lines to worry about. He should get some favorable matchups. Even with these puck fumbles Malkin still have four points in the three games since he returned.
Those multiple scoring lines have a good chunk of shooting talent now. Everybody on the top line (Crosby, Guentzel, Rust) has had impressive shooting percentages over big samples. Evgeni Malkin is still working out the kinks, but we know he can shoot. Kasperi Kapanen might not be a 17% shooter, but he’s on a heater and can wire the puck, just look at the goal he scored last night. The third line has Jeff Carter and Jared McCann who absolutely ripped a snap shot in last night. The fourth line with Aston Reese-Blueger-Tanev can be fed to the wolves. There are a lot of matchup problems now.
Lastly, I was watching the Sabres broadcast last night and I always leave impressed with the quality. Specifically, the intermisison report with Brian Duff and Marty Biron. They have great chemistry and do a wonderful job balancing entertainment and information. They aren’t afraid to lean into shot attempts and expected goals. I think ESPN or Turner Sports would hit a homerun by hiring Biron for their studio show (they could hire Duff, too for that matter). Marty has the perfect upbeat temperament and sense of humor which has been sorely lacking forever on NBC. He is knowledgeable and does a nice job of using his prior playing experience without leaning into it too much.
Rumor has it Turner Sports lead broadcasting team is going to be Kenny Albert (fine) and Eddy Olcyzyk (ugh). This is beyond underwhelming. Albert is fine, but is he really a lead guy for an entire network? Eddie O is tired and dated. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a top broadcast anymore. Turner would do well to hire someone like Biron to spice things up and get someone with a personability in there.
Last game of the season is tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!