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Penguins players hit milestones, Rangers get victory

March 17, 2023, 2:40 PM ET [86 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The loss to Montreal the other night was problematic. It should have been a straight forward two points. Highlighting the disappointment those same Canadiens lost 9-5 to the Panthers last night. By giving away those two points the pressure mounts as the team headed to MSG to take on the Rangers for two games. These Rangers games were always going to be tough and the first one was. It resulted in a 4-2 loss for the Penguins. It showed what an uphill battle the Penguins have against the better teams in the Eastern Conference. We know it is going to be an uphill battle.

One thing we learned is that against better teams it will be more difficult for the Penguins to “spread the wealth” among their lines. Moving Rakell down to the third line will probably be an OK strategy against lesser foes. Against better teams it has the potential to neuter the entire operation. Bryan Rust has been a quality option for the Crosby line for a few years. It hasn’t been the case this year. Rakell needs to stay there. For the top line to get traction they need to have the right players. Rakell is the right player for Crosby on the right wing in 2022-23. Ultimately, the team is top heavy. Mike Sullivan will have to lean into it and hope the bottom six breaks as close to even as possible. Perhaps even steal a goal here and there. After Rakell was placed back on the Crosby line they were able to produce two goals. I think you have to leave that line alone. It is one of the surefire positive things the Penguins have going for them.

Those two goals came with two Sidney Crosby assists. He has 82 points. He now officially has his 18th consecutive point per game season in the NHL. Only Wayne Gretzky at 19 has more. An absurd level of consistency. It is part of why I think we take for granted what Sid is doing at age 35. We just treat it as normal because it has been. In reality, this is incredibly rare and makes the front office’s mangling of the roster even more infuriating. This isn’t a nostalgia tour yet. The captain is still awesome.

Evgeni Malkin remains awesome, too. He has 72 points in 68 games. If he is able to keep pace it will be his fifteenth point per game season. It would tie him with Ron Francis and Joe Sakic. Only Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mark Messier, and Marcel Dionne would have more than him. Elite company. Another example of this not being a nostalgia tour yet and the shortcomings are because of front office negligence.

Jake Guentzel scored his 30th goal on the season. Ever since he was promoted to the NHL this is what he’s done. He scored on the very first shot of his career and he’s scored on many more since. Since his rookie year he’s scored 190 times which is good for 21st overall. He’s been terrific from the start. He’s been Crosby’s best winger of his career when you factor in talent and longevity.

Tristan Jarry has been underwhelming at best since returning from injury. Last night, was a step in the right direction. He looked much better against the Rangers. Sullivan could have easily gone back to DeSmith after his last start, but he gave Jarry a chance to step up. It wasn’t a spectacular performance. It was solid. He stopped 31 of 34 for a .914 save percentage. These are reasonable numbers. You can win games with goaltending like this. It could be better. We also know it could be way worse.

The Penguins get another crack against the Rangers on Saturday night. Before then they get to navigate New York City on St. Patrick’s Day.

Thanks for reading!
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