If there was one word to describe the Pittsburgh Penguins style of play recently, it would be “dominating.” Since the beginning of the year, the Penguins have been proving doubters wrong as they clinched a playoff berth on April 29 with an overtime win against the Washington Capitals. As the Penguins gear up for their 15th straight playoff appearance, they are quickly snapping back into playoff shape.
The Top Lines Continue To Perform
The first line, led by captain Sidney Crosby, continues to control the game every time they touch the ice. Accompanied by wingers Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust, the top line has been consistently providing the offensive push that undoubtedly influenced their recent success.
Center Jeff Carter was recently acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline. Carter has fit in nicely with the second line, recording six points in his first 10 games. He has adequately filled the void Evgeni Malkin left in the wake of his persisting injury. Although Carter may not be able to put up the amount of points that Malkin does, he has been an outstanding acquisition for the Penguins.
Bottom-Six Forwards Finding Success
With the Penguins suffering an onslaught of injuries for the majority of the season, the third and fourth lines were mixed up time and time again. Despite this, players have found success. Center Teddy Blueger has proved to be a valuable two-way player on the third line. He has displayed his offensive prowess with 21 points while simultaneously being a vital piece of the penalty-killing unit.
The fourth line has also seen a decent amount of success despite having a revolving door of players entering and leaving the lineup. One player that would be interesting to see play during the postseason is left wing Radim Zohorna. Zohorna made an impressive career debut as he scored against the Buffalo Sabres on March 25. Although he has only appeared in eight games this season, he put up a modest four points. If injuries continue to plague the Penguins, Zohorna could make yet another appearance.
The Playoff Picture
The postseason in recent years has not been kind to the Penguins. Since their back-to-back Stanley Cup victories in 2016 and 2017 the playoffs have been disappointing. The Penguins were bested by the Washington Capitals in the second round of the 2018 playoffs. The Penguins were then swept in the first round in the 2019 playoffs by the New York Islanders. That was followed by an underwhelming performance in the qualifying round in 2020 where they lost to the Montreal Canadiens.
If the Penguins continue to play as they have in recent games, their luck could turn around. With plenty of playoff experience shared between the players, the postseason is looking hopeful. However, if the Penguins continue to suffer from injuries, the playoffs could be as frustrating as the past few years.