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Penguins brass continues to see 2016 similarities in way Penguins push the pace

1. — The Pittsburgh Penguins internal models, especially the analytic based one’s, have screamed ‘2016 Penguins’ in the eyes of several members of the organization.

Pittsburgh with all the injuries, has been exceptionally improved this season in offensive zone entries and scouts have seen an improvement in pressuring the puck carrier through the neutral zone that has Pittsburgh defending zone entries at a much greater rate, which until recently had led to less running around and getting overwhelmed down-low in defending the cycle and net-front.

Not all evaluators are sold on this roster and some feel it’s going to be a lineup in a seven game series that that you can wear down below the dots at both ends of the rink and there’s no sense opposing teams fear Pittsburgh’s backend. That said, one former head coach told me around 10 days ago at the quarter mark, the five best teams he’s watched this season in the sense of playing the right way and built to win come April are:

1. Washington Capitals
2. Boston Bruins
3. St. Louis Blues
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
5. Dallas Stars

In That Order.

You have to get in first, though, as Pittsburgh’s November felt much more productive than it did, in only coming out of the month with six wins. Pittsburgh is currently playing at a 97 point pace.

2. — Tristan Jarry has never carried that No. 1 upside on the trade market, which was always the hope once Matt Murray emerged on the scene, but the best case scenario for the Penguins this season (at least going into the season) was Jarry starting to trend in the direction of carrying high-level No. 2 goaltender value on the market.

Time will tell if that plays out but Jarry is doing his part as the full-time No. 2 in 2019-2020.

Right now, though, and maybe for the rest of the season, Jarry is much more valuable to the Penguins on the ice than he is to them on the trade market. And it’s not even close.

In nine games Jarry has posted a 2.27 GAA and .929 Save Percentage and things finally reached the point last week where Mike Sullivan showed interest in taking starts away from Matt Murray as Monday night vs Calgary Jarry started consecutive games for the first time this season. Jarry’s first five starts of the season were all in the second night of back-to-back with the Penguins getting six of 10 possible points in those games.

Matt Murray is playing so bad right now, Jarry has to be in line to start taking more starts away from Murray. Pittsburgh isn’t playing at a 125 point pace like the Capitals, you can’t just wait around and hope Murray finds his game.

Murray is in quite the slump. The last two starts have showed some of the worst rebound control you’ll see from a franchise level goaltender. Murray’s save percentage has dipped to .897.

Another storyline to the backup goaltender situation is whether Casey DeSmith, barring injury, is going to be exiled for good.

Some close to the situation don’t discount DeSmith going to the media multiple times in being blindsided as something that hasn’t sat well with higher-up’s Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

3. — More on Jarry: One team the Penguins had strong intel that planned to claim Jarry on waivers, had Pittsburgh placed the 2013 2nd round pick on waivers prior to the season was the Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

4. Jake Guentzel is the best Penguins’ winger since……………

40 goals and 76 points in 82 games last season, Guentzel is averaging a point per game with 27 points in 27 games, including 15 goals.

No Sidney Crosby has hopefully led to a greater appreciation of how impactful of a player Guentzel is.

On pace for back-to-back 40 goal seasons, this is an elite goal scorer in today’s NHL. And for a player who doesn’t have a Mitch Marner type ‘wow you’ skill set, how good of a pure goal scorer Guentzel is in being an elite net-front player despite his frame has been something else to watch over the last couple years.

Guentzel is the clear team M.V.P. at the 27 game mark and it’s not close.

Another thing to ponder…

Guentzel can always be counted on

82 games played in 2017-2018
82 games played in 2018-2019
27 games played in 27 games for 2019-2020 season.

Don’t discount his ability to elevate Evgeni Malkin right now either with Malkin getting the opportunity to play with an elite winger.

5. Whether anything can be accomplished or determined remains to be seen, but the Penguins around three weeks began conducting a thorough amount of research on the how team Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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