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Penguins take first of three against Rangers this week

March 13, 2023, 2:46 PM ET [54 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Penguins started their gauntlet with the New York Rangers in winning fashion. They scraped out an overtime win on the power play for a 3-2 victory. Pittsburgh played a solid game overall with an xGF% of 55.23. Even if it doesn’t feel like it they are 7-1-1 in their last nine games. They are comfortably in the top wild card spot at 78 points, two clear of the Islanders who they have two games in hand on at the moment. They are six points behind the Rangers with two more games against them this week. Making up standings points this late in the season is tough. Head to head matchups are the best way to do so. Big games later this week.

As for yesterday’s game it was Kris Letang’s goal in overtime which sealed the victory for the Penguins. It came on the power play after Evgeni Malkin was tripped up in overtime. It was the second power play of the game on a power play that has found its assertiveness and purpose in the past few games. It has been more shoot friendly and it has been for the better. Letang is now tied for the league lead in overtime goals this season with 3. He combined it with an xGF% of 83.71. He’s starting to gain some traction and it is coming at an important time. Seven out of his last nine games are over a 50% clip in xGF% (70.94, 46.11, 59.82, 62.08, 41.48, 64.07, 80.46, 58.89, 83.71). There have been some rocky stretches for Letang. This is not one of them.

On the flip side of things Jeff Carter remains a train wreck. He had a CF 2 CA 18 yesterday. He had an xGF% of 0.00. He will crater whatever line he’s on. Hockey can be talked about as a game of bounces and puck luck. You can’t get puck luck if all the shot volume is going at your own net. It is insanely difficult to have an xGF% of 0.00. He’s a poison pill. Eye test, data, whatever, you arrive at the same conclusion. He isn’t playable and isn’t one of the team’s 12 best forwards.

I’m also officially over the faceoff bit in overtime. Carter isn’t that much better than Sidney Crosby on draws and putting him out there to start each overtime session is the bad kind of overcoaching. Sidney Crosby is right there. He understands the importance of the opening 3v3 draw. I’m sure he’ll figure it out. He’s Sidney Crosby. Given that the Penguins do the Carter thing every time if I were the opposing coach I would have a set play to take advantage of Carter bee lining it to the bench. Stretch your players and one side will have a soft spot for quick up 2v1. If Carter stays on the ice then attack his area as he’s the weak link. It’s almost like the Sullivan is bending over backwards to make Carter feel like he’s a useful member on the team by creating a completely unnecessary niche role.

Jason Zucker scored again. He has nine in eight games. He’s on a heater. He’s having the season the Penguins were expecting when they traded for him. Unfortunately, the timing isn’t optimal. I’m not suggesting he stop scoring all these goals. Just that he’s in a contract year when the Penguins have the thinnest of margins heading into the playoffs in an absolutely stacked Eastern Conference. What I thought might be a contract in the 3M range might look more similar to the one he currently has. Replacing the 2022-23 version of Zucker will be no easy task. For now, I’m glad to see Zucker racking up these goals. You know the past few seasons have been frustrating for him with the injuries.

Tristan Jarry put up a solid performance. He’s been pretty mediocre since coming back from his latest injury. In the seven starts prior to yesterday since returning he was an .869 goaltender. The .931 he put up yesterday was a nice thing to see. Jarry is one of the most important members of the team as it pertains to the Penguins playoff potential. If he’s playing at an all star level the top six can probably string together enough goals to win a series. Average or worse? Probably not good enough.

Lastly, Sidney Crosby is about to lock in an incredible accomplishment. It will be the 18th time he’s done so. The accomplishment would be an 18th consecutive season where he is a point per game or better. When he does get his two points he will pass Gordie Howe (17) for second most point per games seasons all-time. The only one left would be Wayne Gretzky’s 19. Only Gretzky’s last season fell below the threshold and even then he had 62 points in 70 games. Sid being 18 for 18 is pretty damn good.

The Penguins will take a brief break from the Rangers when they host Montreal tomorrow. Then they travel to MSG for two against the Rangers on Thursday and Saturday.

Thanks for reading!
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