The Pittsburgh Penguins have been plagued with injuries and have faced many obstacles this season, however, their bad luck has not produced a lackluster performance.
So far, they have maintained a playoff spot and have produced 38 points. With so many players on the sidelines, it seems like a miracle that they have kept a decent record; nonetheless, they have clung to the healthy veteran players and created a team that wins while their teammates get better.
Cohesiveness has generally been a weak spot for the Penguins. Often times, it seems as if the stars excel and other players hideaway, or vice versa. The team appeared to never be on the same page; the defense rarely supported the goaltender, and only a few key players actually scored goals. This combination is never good and it definitely never results in a Stanley Cup.
For some reason, when a crisis hits a team those left need to make the best of a bad situation and work together. Goalie Tristan Jarry has been performing outstandingly well the past few games and while he remained firm in the net, John Marino helped the defense protect the net at all times (while recording a few goals along the way), and Evgeni Malkin continues to be a leader that can motivate his team to thrive when other key contributors are absent.
The team has developed a strategy and right now, it seems to be working; but most importantly they are sticking together on and off the ice, thus making a cohesiveness that is crucial to creating long-term success.
Playing Style Diversification
In addition to overall cohesiveness, the energy and team dynamic has been phenomenal. Obviously, Malkin has expressed his drive to have a great season and rise above this hard time, but on another level, new playing styles have completely energized the team.
Brandon Tanev, the player whom everyone questioned at the beginning of the season, has tallied 16 points in 30 games but his contributions have produced more than decent statistics. His style has added depth and made the Penguins more than just a fast offensive team. Tanev challenges opponents and makes them really fight for the puck; making the Penguins a hard team to play against.
Along with Tanev, some of the other new players are thriving and generating points. For example, Jared McCann and Dominik Kahun have been taking offensive opportunities and using this time to show their talents and skills. It seems as if they are getting more chances to shine while other players are sitting out, which has ultimately benefitted the team.
The defense was the main area of concern earlier on in the season. In the past, the defense seemed truly ineffective and they often failed to support the goaltender. Now it seems as if they have found their footing despite losing Kris Letang to an injury for a bit of time and are currently missing Brian Dumoulin.
One key player in this has been Marino – a rookie who scored 3 goals and tallied 13 points in 28 games – has been given steady play while other defensemen are injured. Luckily, his time on the ice has paid off and he has been helping the defense stay strong and sturdy, but also productive.
Not only are the Penguins playing rock-solid defense as a team, but Marino has become one of the big drivers in that performance and one of the most important offseason pickups. He has not only been better than advertised, he has been everything the Penguins defense has needed the past couple of years, adding a young, cheap against the salary cap, and mobile player to a blue line that had become increasingly slower and, for lack of a better word, worse.
Along with Marino’s effort, Marcus Pettersson and Jack Johnson have stepped up while their co-defensemen recuperate after injuries and even more defensive forwards, like Tanev, players have contributed to their success.
Simply put, the defense seems like the best performing unit on the team right now and I can only expect them to flourish these next coming weeks.
Each injury that has hit the Penguins this season has brought along learning experiences. It seems, to me, that these obstacles have made them a stronger team. Now, this might change whenever key players come back into the mix and line arrangements need to change. But right now, it’s great to see such development.