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Insider Only Takeaways: Guentzel, Kessel need to stay parked in the top-6

Penguins 3 – Coyotes 1

A Justin Schultz goal 59 seconds into the game from an awful angle and then an Evgeni Malkin goal 2:08 later, the Penguins looked primed to have a big stats day against what some call the ‘AHL’ Coyotes.

Things, though, didn’t exactly play out that way as the Penguins would find themselves involved in a one-goal game early in the third period before Phil Kessel scored a power play goal at 6:06 of the third period to put the Penguins ahead 3-1.

The Penguins improved to 9-6-2 with the 3-1 victory. The Coyotes are an NHL worst 2-13-2.

It wasn’t a great performance from the Penguins considering the opponent playing the second of a back-to-back but teams often have inconsistent games when first returning home from a long road trip.


Pittsburgh was led by three point nights from Evgeni Malkin (Goal, 2 assists) and Phil Kessel (Goal, 2 Assists), while Matt Murray turned in a 24 save performance.

After hoping Kessel on the third line could jumpstart the bottom-6 during the road trip, Penguin coaches reunited Malkin and Kessel in the win with Jake Guentzel playing the left side.

“They were threats most shifts,” Sullivan said. “They’re playing hard right now, what our coaching staff really likes is how hard they’re playing, how committed they are.”

The line was very good in getting up the ice in transition and Guentzel had a great one-timer opportunity in the first period off transition that 9 out of 10 times would be a goal.

Pittsburgh’s lack of offense from the bottom-6 has been frustrating but the coaching staff is not maximizing what Jake Guentzel brings to the table if you’re playing him away from Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and while there are always defensive concerns when putting Malkin and Kessel together if the two are not engaged mentally to play their own end, the team is wasting Kessel trying to think he can carry a third line with Riley Sheahan as the center.

Guentzel and Kessel should be parked in the top-6 no matter what.

Kessel leads Pittsburgh with 19 points on the season. 11 of Kessel’s 19 points have come on the power play.


— The Penguins had an underwhelming game again in burying pucks during 5 vs 5 play.

Arizona out-attempted Pittsburgh 43-39 and high danger chances were 8 to 7 Pittsburgh.

The Penguins are dead last in the NHL in 5 vs 5 goals. Interesting enough, Nashville is 30th.

Wouldn’t expect the Predators and Penguins to remain bottom-5………


— Pittsburgh fired 37 shots on goal but went 1-for-6 on the power play.

A stat you wouldn’t expect.

Sidney Crosby was held without a shot despite 8:22 of ice time on the power play. Only three Penguins were held without a shot:

Crosby, Riley Sheahan, Greg McKegg.

It was a bit of a difficult night for Crosby who has 13 points in 17 games and is a minus-12 rating.

He had 0 shots, 2 attempts, 44 CF%, 46 SCF%, 20 High Danger CF%.


Conor Sheary is second on the team with 6 goals but we continue to see a trend of the coaching staff getting frustrated with his level of play in certain games and Sheary losing shifts.

The Sheary – Crosby – Hornqvist line was on the ice for a goal against 26 seconds into the third period and Sheary was benched for the next 7+ minutes, 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 wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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