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Penguins are doing their GM a huge favor

January 5, 2019, 12:52 PM ET [208 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Penguins have accomplished something that has alluded them since they were a powerhouse in the spring of 2016. They have won eight consecutive games. They are tied in points with Washington at 52 for the division lead. This is the kind of run that will pay dividends outside of the standings.

The reason I believe it has a benefit outside of the obvious standings implications is it removes them from feeling desperate for now. Teams who are struggling in the standings and trying to make trades will feel pressured into making deals. With the recent surge in points due to the winning streak the Penguins have bought their general manager a cushion. As the year moves on the more clarity other teams are going to get. The current system the NHL uses for standings points gives a false sense of competitiveness. This delays teams from bailing on the season. Some of these teams who may be holding out for that one last winning streak may fold on the year when it doesn’t come in the next few weeks. This may open up some different opportunities for trade depending on who those teams are.

Depending on how the rest of January goes it may buy the Penguins time all the way to Justin Schultz’s return to the lineup. It would be nice if the Penguins could get a look at their current defense personnel with Schultz in the lineup before making any big moves. It’s not a guarantee to play out perfectly, but at least there is a chance for the team to slow play the deadline now. A few weeks ago I don’t think it was a possibility at all.

It's important to see how Schultz impacts this

If they can get average goaltending (currently it is tremendous) and get back above 50% they are going to be a tough out again in the playoffs given the finishing ability of some of their high end forwards.

The other huge impact it will probably have is it will give Evgeni Malkin a talented puck mover to play with. He’s still being fed heavy doses of Jack Johnson while Sidney Crosby gets all the Kris Letang time. Schultz’s strengths are the kinds of things that will help a player like Malkin get more time and space. He needs it. He deserves it.

Matt Murray was sinking the team early in the year. He’s propelled them forward since returning from injury. In his seven games since coming back his lowest single game save percentage has been .927. It’s hard to lose hockey games when your goalie is playing at a high level. You almost have to go out of your way to blow the game.

Kris Letang scored 16 goals in 2015-16. He is at ten right now. His career high is in danger. I want to reiterate that Kris Letang is not have a “bounce back” season. He’s having an excellent year. It is better than 2017-18. A “bounce back” implies he was bad last year. I think it is laughable to suggest he was something other than the Penguins best defender by a mile.

Penguins play the Blackhawks on Sunday. No it is not outdoors.

Thanks for reading!
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