First, the good news.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have 41 points in 29 games, which puts them on pace for 112. That would be plenty to win the Eastern Conference most seasons or, at the very least, lock a team into the second-best record.
Now, the bad news: This is not most seasons.
As a matter of fact, 112 points may not be enough win the Metropolitan, which is on pace to feature five teams with at least 100 points. The Penguins are one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for the top seed in the East but just two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers for the final wild-card spot.
Also, the good news within the bad news: This could mean the Penguins have to keep their foot on the gas until the end of the regular season instead of just simply coasting to a Presidents’ Trophy. Remember what happened to the Capitals last season? They won the Presidents’ Trophy with ease, struggled to get out of the first round, then were bounced in the second round by … the Penguins.
Although, this also means one ill-timed four-game losing streak could mean a wild-card spot for the Penguins.
Look, there are no easy answers here. This could go either way.
Nick Bonino is a rat
“Never rat on your friends.” — Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas, also Phil Kessel on the bench during a game against Ottawa on Dec. 5.
Nick Bonino wore a microphone when the Penguins beat the Senators 8-5. Yeah, I know — mic’d up players usually wind up in videos where you get to hear incredible insights from players like, “Let’s go!” and “Go, go, go, go!” It’s enrapturing to hear words of encouragement between teammates after goals. “Good goal, [hockey nickname that ends in -sy].” Great stuff.
But when you’re a team coming off a Stanley Cup season and off to a great start, you get carefree, loose players that are OK with having fun. Like when Phil Kessel realized Bonino was wearing a microphone and called him a rat. The best moment in the video above (no spoilers) is when Bonino wants to talk to Kessel about one Senator’s stick blade.
Note: There is also hockey-speak and happiness after a goal. Sorry. It’s still a good clip, though.
Player of the Week
Who else?Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Really, after a 3-0-0 week that saw the Penguins outscore their opponents 16-4, it could go to anyone. I feel very much like an owner of multiple dogs, who are all very good boys and all deserve a treat, but I can only give one of them a treat, because I am a terrible dog owner who should not be allowed to own dogs. I don’t know where I was going with that.
Anyway, it’s the boring, obvious choice: Sidney Crosby. He had four goals and an assist in three games, including the very nice baseball swing goal in the 7-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. Evgeni Malkin had a two-goal, two-assist week, but I’ve decided to withhold the treat that is this weekly award in an effort to keep him motivated.
Player of the Weak
No, we could not find a more embarrassing photo this week. We tried.Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Kunitz, man. I guess not everyone was great this past week, because the Penguins scored 16 goals, and he failed to earn a point. He had about 39 minutes of ice time in three games and had just three shots on goal and was a minus-2 in 5-on-5 on-ice shot attempts.
At 37, this is very likely the end of the road for Kunitz with the Penguins and maybe the NHL. He is in the final year of his contract and would have to be willing to take much less than $3.55 million he’s earning next season if he wants to stick with any team next season.
Marsh, uh. March, uh. Marsh, uh.
A portion of the Internet on Tuesday got very, very mad that Sidney Crosby didn’t win the Lou Marsh Trophy, a very prestigious award given to the best Canadian athlete each year that you had absolutely never heard of until yesterday.
Instead, it went to Penny Oleksiak, who won four swimming medals at the Rio Olympics. Two were bronze, one was silver and one was (a tie for) gold, so she really didn’t win anything outright. But this is Canada, where any Olympic medal is treated like a gift from the sky.
That led to some hockey writers citing Crosby’s credentials for an award that could very well be fictional. It’s a pretty good list. But is it better than four Olympic medals? No. Why? Because who cares about regular-season points and a preseason tournament? And the Stanley Cup was a team thing. And we all know Phil Kessel deserved the Conn Smythe Trophy more than Crosby.
So, when you get right down to it, the Lou Marsh Trophy should have gone to American hero Phil Kessel.
Glad that’s settled.