The Pittsburgh Penguins Panic Meter Should be High
When you are the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions, everyone is going to come after you. The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost five out of last seven games. Their record is 17-15-3 with 37 points and they currently sit in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Penguins have been struggling to score goals. They do have 101 goals scored on the year but they have given up 112. Pittsburgh has one of the worst defenses in the NHL.
Kris Letang's plus/minus is -12 which is one of the worst in the NHL. He does has two goals and 22 assists, but Letang turns the puck over a lot. They clearly miss Justin Schultz on the blue line and they are lost without him. He has been hurt at times this season. In 23 games, he has scored two goals and recorded eight assists. His plus/minus is 1. Olli Maatta has scored three goals and recorded 11 assists, but his plus/minus is -5.
Maatta is very stiff on defense and makes more bad plays than good. He has potential on the offensive side, but he lacks emotion. Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, and Chad Ruhwedel have been ok this season. Even though in 20 games Matt Hunwick has scored three goals and recorded an assist, he also turns the puck over and lacks aggression on defense. His plus/minus is 1.
The Pittsburgh Penguins did acquire today defenseman Jamie Oleksiak for a conditional fourth-round pick to the Dallas Stars. In 21 games this season, he has scored a goal and recorded two assists. His plus/minus is -6. Oleksiak is 24 years old and is a former first-round pick. He will be brought in here to be a shutdown defense. Hopefully, he will be like Ron Hainsey of last season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins also have traded Josh Archibald, Sean Maguire, and a 2019 sixth-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Michael Leighton and a 2019 fourth-round pick.
At six games at the AHL level, Archibald scored one goal and recorded two assists. His plus/minus is -4. In three games at the NHL level, he hasn't recorded a point, but Archibald has potential in the NHL if he plays every day.
In four games at the AHL level, Maguire's record is 1-1 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.19 GAA. In five games at the AHL level, Leighton's record is 1-1 with a .869 save percentage and a 3.40 GAA, along with one shutout. Leighton will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL).
As for the Pittsburgh Penguins itself, they need to continue to make other changes. Daniel Sprong needs to be called up from the minor leagues to spark the Penguins offense. In 25 games, he has scored 15 goals and recorded seven assists. His plus/minus is -3.
Dominik Simon hasn't scored a goal in four games with Pittsburgh but he does have two assists. Head coach Mike Sullivan loves his speed and skating. He likes him playing with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.
Crosby has been lacking to shoot the puck this season even though he has scored 14 goals. Crosby does have 19 assists, but he needs to start playing with a take over mindset. Phil Kessel currently leads the team in points with 38 (15 goals 23 assists). Evgeni Malkin has scored 11 goals and recorded 20 assists. Jake Guentzel has scored 12 goals and Patric Hornqvist has scored 11 goals.
I don't see these two players being with the Pittsburgh Penguins soon: Ryan Reaves and Carl Hagelin. Reaves was brought in here to be a protector for Crosby and Malkin, but that experiment needs to end. Reaves only has scored one goal and recorded two assists in 35 games this season. His plus/minus is -6.
The St. Louis Blues are a much better team without him and it might not be an accident. At least Reaves's contract is up at the end of the season and they probably won't resign him. I can't figure out why they gave up a first-round pick for him though.
Pittsburgh lost Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen, Chris Kunitz, Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey, and Marc-Andre Fleury in the offseason. They all contributed in a big way. Carl Hagelin is has scored two goals and recorded four assists in 34 games this season. His plus/minus is -3. Hagelin still has another year left on his contract after this year and he isn't worth the $4 million. Pittsburgh lacks scoring on the third and fourth lines.
Goaltenders Matt Murray and Tristan Jarry have been good between the pipes for the Penguins this season. Murray's record is 12-9-1 with a .907 save percentage and a 2.88 GAA, along with one shutout. Jarry's record is 5-2-2 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.49 GAA, along with one shutout.
The Penguins need to also trade for some more offense and also get another defenseman. They need to starting stringing wins together because if they don't, they will not have a chance to three-peat. The panic meter should be high right now and I'm sure general manager Jim Rutherford and head coach Mike Sullivan has seen enough with this personnel.