With three straight wins and a couple of dominant showings over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Penguins are leaning on some lesser-known players to carry the team.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been on a tear recently, scoring 14 goals over their last two games. Despite not having Evgeni Malkin out on the ice, the Penguins have played like a team on a mission. There, of course, has been strong play from Sidney Crosby, as the long-time superstar has been super-human at times, but it’s the lesser-known guys that have lead this Penguins resurgence after an ugly opening night loss.
Take Jake Guentzel, a 25-year-old who had a breakout last season for the Penguins. He’s been seen as a good player, sure, but his play recently has been stellar. With goals in three straight contests, including two on Sunday, Guentzel has solidified himself as one of the better forwards in the league.
As good as Guentzel has been, he has been far from the only contributor that has stepped up to help the team overcome injuries. Zach Aston-Reese was dominant on Sunday, scoring two goals and adding an assist for good measure. Meanwhile, Sam Lafferty has become one of the Penguins’ most important contributors lately. Lafferty, who had a five-point weekend for Pittsburgh, has been consistently productive and outplayed even Crosby over the last two games. Between Guentzel, Aston-Reese and Lafferty, who have an average age of just under 25 years old, the Penguins have uncovered the type of talented depth that few other teams in the NHL can claim.
After losing some big-time contributors because of injuries, nobody would have been surprised if the Penguins had started to crumble. After that ugly opening night loss, many were eager to push the panic button, but as we move forward, it’s become evident that this team remains a true contender. It’s dangerous to make any long-term conclusions about a team from two games, but this type of depth and talent is rare.
These may not be the Pittsburgh Penguins we have always known, but as long as the lesser-known players continue playing this well, Pittsburgh should be just fine.