Leave it to head coach Mike Sullivan to create magic when facing adversity. First, Bryan Rust gets injured and will be out for quite some time. Then, Jake Guentzel suffers an upper-body injury and is now week-to-week. With both of Sidney Crosby‘s wingers out, it was hard to say if anything was going to work out. However, Sullivan assembled what is now the Pittsburgh Penguins’ immaculate first line.
How Have They Been Doing?
Evan Rodrigues slotted in for Rust as he suffered an injury Nov. 24 against the Vancouver Canucks. Since then, he’s played nine games on Crosby’s wing. In those nine games, he’s accumulated two goals and eight points. He’s currently on pace to shatter obliterate his highest point season he earned with the Buffalo Sabres during the 2018-2019 season when he gathered 29 points as he is already at 22 points on the season.
It was a critical blow to the Penguins’ offensive force when Guentzel suffered his injury Nov. 6 against the Seattle Kraken. Since then, Kasperi Kapanen has been playing on Crosby’s left wing. Although he’s only played three games with the newly assembled first line, he’s gathered two points, both of which were goals. This new first line brings an entirely new dynamic to the offense.
Each of these players brings something to the table. It nearly doesn’t have to be said for Crosby, but his vision and playmaking are unparalleled in the hockey world. Kapanen’s wheels are always turning as he flies around the ice with astonishing speed. Rodrigues has been silencing all doubters this year as he’s been consistently putting the puck in the net with beautiful shots. This new trio is beyond entertaining to watch.
Will They Stick Together?
Although these guys clearly have a beautiful sense of chemistry, it is impossible that they are sticking together once Rust and Guentzel become healthy again. No matter how good these guys are together, it doesn’t compare to the dominance that the Crosby, Guentzel and Rust trio brings to the ice day in and day out. This doesn’t mean that they are going to regress, however.
It’s safe to say that playing with Crosby has given both Rodrigues and Kapanen a massive confidence booster. For Rodrigues, he’s been unrecognizable from last season. He gained a ton of confidence just playing throughout the season, but with Crosby that confidence skyrocketed. Kapanen slowed down a bit but playing on Crosby’s wing seems to have rejuvenated him.
One line combination that would be flat-out fun to watch would be Kapanen and Rodrigues on Evgeni Malkin‘s wings. Malkin is still recovering from surgery, but it seems that his time to come back is getting closer and closer. That line would just be a scoring machine. Imagine a Penguins’ roster with dominant first and second lines. They’d be unstoppable.
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