The Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the St. Louis Blues 3-0 on Tuesday night. This is one of the odder final scores of the season, as the Penguins are the NHL’s highest-scoring team and the Blues had allowed 18 goals in their previous three games. Throw in the fact that the Penguins had lost twice in regulation at home all season, and this is why you should never gamble on sports.
That’s the bad news as the Penguins prepare for the upcoming All-Star break. Here is all the good news as they approach the unofficial end of the first half:
- Kris Letang is healthy! He returned from a knee injury Tuesday and … wait, he was back, and the Penguins still got blanked at home by the Blues? Sorry, sorry. Positive stuff. Letang having a healthy knee and a long weekend ahead after Thursday’s game against Boston is great news.
- The Penguins have the third-most points in the league, which is also the third-most points in the Metropolitan, so they wouldn’t even have home-ice advantage in the playoffs if they started now. With 35 games to play, the Penguins are still within spitting distance of the overachieving Blue Jackets and piping-hot Capitals.
- Conor Sheary was the NHL’s First Star of last week. He has 17 goals and 34 points in 40 games. He’s like a newer Chris Kunitz model. Someone asked if I thought he was the real deal — I do. He’s not a 40-goal guy, but he works perfectly with Sidney Crosby, which is something that has proven difficult to find and maintain for the Penguins over the years.
- Justin Schultz has turned into the greatest defenseman in NHL history.
All in all, a darn good first half for a team that’s 22nd in goals allowed.
The Penguins throttled the Hurricanes 7-1 in Carolina on Friday. It got so bad that the Penguins fans in attendance got a “Here We Go Steelers” chant going in anticipation of the Steelers-Patriots AFC title game on Sunday. That was probably the last time anyone felt outward joy about that football game but, hey, this was cool to hear.
Player of the Week
Sorta gave this away, but Sheary is the league’s player of the week, so clearly he will be ours, too. In our seven-day window, he had four goals and two assists in four games (and six goals and three assists in the NHL’s four-game week that includes his three-point game in the Penguins’ 8-7 win against the Capitals).
Player of the Weak
This is such a hard category when the Penguins are winning, which is, like, all the time. They lost 3-0 to the Blues, yeah, but that ended a three-game winning streaks that saw the Penguins outscore their opponents 16-3. How can anyone be so bad over that stretch that they’re worth singling out?
Fine. Patric Hornqvist.
One goal, two assists, four games. This is mean, I know. That’s a 61-point season over 82 games.
Never mind. I am the player of the weak. This was my setup so I take the blame. (Editor’s note: Since you fell on it this weak, er week, Dave, we decided to throw in a tweet to your book. If only you’d talk more about that somewhere…)
Excellent question, stranger in the audience I don’t know.
The book this person is talking about is THE 100 GREATEST PLAYERS IN NHL HISTORY (AND OTHER STUFF): AN ARBITRARY COLLECTION OF ARBITRARY LISTS that’s available on Amazon and other places you’d purchase e-books. It was written by myself, Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski and another person whose name escapes me.
But unlike the NHL’s top 100 list that comes out Friday, we ranked our 100 players. It was hard. But the hardest Penguin for me was Evgeni Malkin.
I’m reasonably sure he will be part of the NHL’s top 100, so it’s not as though it’s weird or bad we had him on our list. But based on our criteria and what he’s done in his career, I had him ranked No. 38 on my personal list, one spot ahead of Peter Forsberg and one spot behind Chris Chelios.
Malkin has two scoring titles, one Hart, one Hart runner-up, a Calder, a Conn Smythe, two Stanley Cups and is 14th all-time in regular season points per game, trailing only Sidney Crosby among active players. My thinking was if his career ended now, it’s better than Forsberg’s, so that’s where he should finish. If not for injuries and a lockout, he’d be approaching 1,000 points. He will climb even higher as long as he stays healthy over the rest of his career.
But ranking a player with an incomplete career against players from past eras that have already reached the finish line wasn’t easy, especially when you consider he’s played his entire career in Crosby’s shadow.