The Pittsburgh Penguins had three games this past week against three very different opponents. They opened the week on Wednesday against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues where they won 3-0 in what might have been their most complete team performance to date. The emotional return of Phil Kessel after his trade to the Arizona Coyotes this past offseason sparked a defensive battle that they ultimately won 2-0 on Friday. They then completed the back end of a back-to-back with a 5-3 victory over the struggling Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
Perhaps the best part about the week was not going 3-0 but staying healthy and getting Bryan Rust and Justin Schultz back from injury. As his team gets healthier, head coach Mike Sullivan will have some interesting lineup decisions to make. Let’s take a look at the Penguins’ three stars and highlight the club’s best performing players of the week.
Third Star: Stefan Noesen
When the Penguins announced that they had signed forward Stefan Noesen to an NHL contract, a lot of fans were curious who the team just signed. Going all offseason without a contract, Noesen signed an American Hockey League (AHL) deal to play for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He was given an NHL contract after scoring 22 points, 14 of those being goals, in 22 appearances. It did not take long for his presence to be felt and he scored his first goal as a Penguin. He got himself to the front of the net and found a loose puck and buried it past the Blues goaltender for a 2-0 lead.
He played on the second line against the Blues and Coyotes before ending up on the fourth line to end the week. Noesen made the most of his minutes, putting himself in good positions to shoot or set up a teammate and was defensively sound. The Penguins were rewarded for their faith in Noesen and he was rewarded with an NHL contract. How long he stays in the NHL remains to be seen, but the 26-year-old certainly was a standout performer in his first week with the Penguins.
Dec. 1-7 Stat Line: 1 goal, 4 shots
Second Star: Evgeni Malkin
Evgeni Malkin was dominant for the Penguins this past week. While he was held without a point against the Blues, he was still an important piece for the Penguins, winning 11 out of 16 faceoffs. When his good friend Kessel and the Coyotes came to town, he seemed to turn his game up just that little bit extra when the two were on the ice together. On a set faceoff play that was very similar to one the Penguins ran last week, he won the faceoff and Jake Guentzel shot the puck. Malkin would collect the rebound and open the scoring just over seven minutes into the third period.
In the final game of the week against the Red Wings, he set up Guentzel and Chad Ruhwedel to give the Penguins a quick 2-0 lead. He would later score a goal of his own in the second period by collecting the puck off a batted pass from Guentzel and put it past the netminder to make it 3-1. Malkin continues “to be fire” in the absence of Sidney Crosby and has given the team a needed boost. He has scored 26 points in 19 games and is on his way to one of the best seasons of his career.
Dec. 1-7 Stat Line: 2 goals, 2 assists, 57.4 faceoff percent
First Star: Tristan Jarry
Tristan Jarry won the backup job in training camp and has not looked back. He has been the better of the two goalies for the Penguins this season and has earned all of the starts he has gotten in recent weeks. His first start this week was against the Blues and he was incredible. He made numerous big saves that kept the Penguins in the lead. He made 28 saves in a 3-0 shutout win, including an amazing triple save that got PPG Paints Arena on their feet.
Sullivan would turn to Jarry again against the Coyotes and he was equally impressive. While he wasn’t required to make as many difficult saves, he still saved all 33 shots he faced in a 2-0 win. He has not allowed a goal in 142:51 and has a .943 save percentage (SV%) this season. With Matt Murray struggling as of late, the Penguins will be leaning on Jarry to keep them in the thick of the playoff race.
Dec. 1-7 Stat Line: 61 saves, 1.000 SV%
Each week, an updated point system will be in place. The third star receives one point, the second star receives two, and the first star gets three. Agree or disagree with the stars of the week? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @joshkaradeema.
- Evgeni Malkin- 9 points
- Sidney Crosby- 7 points
- Bryan Rust- 6 points
- Jake Guentzel- 5 points
- Jared McCann- 5 points
- Brandon Tanev- 4 points
- Tristan Jarry- 3 points
- Kris Letang- 3 points
- Matt Murray- 3 points
- Dominik Simon- 3 points
- Patric Hornqvist- 2 points
- Dominik Kahun- 1 point
- Sam Lafferty- 1 point
- John Marino- 1 point
- Stefan Noesen- 1 point