The Pittsburgh Penguins faced off against the Western Conference and ended the week with a 2-1 record. On Tuesday, they battled the Calgary Flames and won 4-1; this game also featured a milestone for Evgeni Malkin and 33 goals saved for netminder, Tristan Jarry. Next, they faced the Edmonton Oilers, winning 5-2; goals in this game were scored by newer players, like Joseph Blandisi, but also the tried-and-true Kris Letang. Finally, the Penguins ended their holiday week with a loss against the Vancouver Canucks.
After this week, the team has improved its season record to 21-11-4 with 46 points, just behind the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference. Though this week brought a few wins and a few low moments, there were some key players who shined. Other players continued to grow and develop on an individual level.
Third Star: Bryan Rust
Rust was on a 5-game point streak which ended when the team lost to the Canucks. Nevertheless, he performed quite well this week. He generated three points, scoring a goal and assisted on Malkin and Letang’s. Particularly, Rust fed Malkin his 400th goal when he could have taken a shot at the empty net; an indication of respect to his teammate who deserved the milestone.
This year he has arguably been one of the team’s two or three most valuable players (maybe even the most valuable player) and even if his scoring slows down a little bit he is still going to be one of the best complementary players in the league.
Rust has been consistent this season but should be commended this week in particular considering he was fighting an illness and still managed to perform at an exceptional level. One highlight from the game against the Flames was when Rust shot and scored through a horde of red jerseys. He has played 22 games and scored 25 points thus far and should stay on pace.
Dec. 15-21 Stat Line: 1 goal, 2 assists, 22:56 average TOI
Second Star: Kris Letang
The second star this week is Letang. He has been performing very well but, this week, he deserves to be a star because he performed offensively as well as defensively. Considering that his other half, Brian Dumoulin, has been out for the past few weeks, he has had to adjust to line changes. As a veteran defenseman, he has successfully earned a large amount of ice time with an average of roughly 28 shifts per game and five blocks in the past three games.
Letang’s power-play goal solidified the Penguins’ lead against the Oilers. From Rust, Malkin made a solid pass to Letang who took the shot and scored the Penguins’ fourth goal. Letang also scored an empty-netter from behind the Penguins’ goal; the puck traveled all the way down the ice and glided into the net, after which he was all smiles. The goal was scored unassisted and solidified the Penguins’ win against the Flames. We hope he continues to contribute this way.
Dec. 15-21 Stat Line: 3 points, 1 power-play goal, 26:32 average TOI
First Star: Evgeni Malkin
The first star of the week is the formidable and determined alternate captain, Malkin. First and foremost, Malkin is to be commended for his 400th goal against the Flames. After 14 seasons, he joins Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Jaromir Jagr as the only four players to reach 400 goals with the franchise. He also tallied four points this week; scoring one goal and assisting on three. So far, he has been achieving his goal, improving week after week.
It’s a huge year for me. I want to play better every game. I won’t forget this number and the next two games are huge. We play in Edmonton and back to back. I want 100 more.
Malkin’s drive has made him an excellent leader while Crosby is out with an injury. His chemistry with Rust and Letang has consistently produced goals. Namely, the goal that Letang scored against the Oilers, when Malkin fed the puck to Letang who made a clean shot past the opposing goaltender, Mike Smith. Malkin’s contributions, whether he is setting up opportunities or taking shots himself, doesn’t go unnoticed and has 31 points in 21 games, ranked second on the team.
Dec. 15-21 Stat Line: 4 points, 25 average shifts per game, 12 total shots
Here is the updated point tally. 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 us know in the comments below or on Twitter at @joshkaradeema / @CaseyMontana97.
- Evgeni Malkin- 12 points
- Bryan Rust – 10 points
- Sidney Crosby- 7 points
- Jake Guentzel- 6 points
- Tristan Jarry – 6 points
- Jared McCann- 5 points
- Kris Letang- 5 points
- Brandon Tanev- 4 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