Happy holidays. It’s not Trump’s America yet so we can still say that legally. No matter what you’re celebrating with your family this week, if you’re a Penguins fan, you’re probably celebrating their season too.
The Penguins still play two more games before Christmas break, but they’re 8-0-2 in their past 10 games after rolling the Rangers 7-2 on Tuesday night. If not for the Division Of Death™, the Penguins would be in a more comfortable position instead of one bad week away from finding themselves in a wild-card spot. Competitive nature of the Metropolitan aside, the Penguins are playing excellent hockey and are in a way better spot this Christmas compared to last year.
But hey, everyone wants gifts, so what are three things the Penguins would love to find under their tree (or wherever you choose to keep gifts) for Christmas (or your holiday celebration of choice) this year? Glad you asked!
1. An Invincibility Amulet For Kris Letang: Is anyone more important to the Penguins’ success than Sidney Crosby? Maybe not, but if it is anyone, it’s Letang. He’s currently in the midst of a multi-week absence with a lower-body injury, so the silver lining is it’s not related to his concussion history. Yeah, you want all your players to be healthy come playoff time, but the Penguins won’t go anywhere without Letang.
2. A Passable Marc-Andre Fleury: With a .904 save percentage through 19 games, the idea of trading Fleury for something useful at the deadline is out the window. The new goal is to have Fleury simply be average so the Penguins don’t run Matt Murray into the ground. Fleury has made just one start over the past 20 days — a 41-save dandy against Ottawa on Saturday — so he could be turning the corner.
3. A Reborn Olli Maatta: The talented (and extremely nice!) 22-year-old has had his career sidetracked by injury and illness, and although he’s been on the ice for 33 games this season, it’s possible all the time off rehabilitating is catching up to him this season. He has zero goals and two assists, not that you’re looking for scoring from him. This team is playoff bound, so using the last three months to get Maatta right should be a priority.
Going Top Sh-Elf
The Penguins have knocked their holiday video out of the park three years running. This year’s “Elf” video seems like it’s doing better on social media than last year’s video, but I’m partial to the “Home Alone” one. I don’t feel like there’s a true star in the “Elf” one. I mean, they went out and hired actor Tom Cavanagh to play the James Caan role? How much money do the Penguins have that they can … oh, that’s Matt Cullen? Sorry.
All the videos are well done — the Penguins have Emmys! — but I’m ride or die with the “Home Alone” video. A good way to decide which video is better — which one has a better Phil Kessel appearance? And Kessel getting his head scorched in the “Home Alone” video is unbeatable.
The first one was “Christmas Vacation,” which is fine, but you can tell it’s the one that helped them work out the kinks to make the next two great. It’s like watching that first season of “Seinfeld” where you’re like, “What is this?” But given time, each staff improved and won Emmys. I can’t wait to see Kessel in “Bee Movie.”
Player of the Week
It is not Sidney Crosby.
It’s Justin Schultz!
Remember how bad Schultz was in Edmonton?
This past week, he had two goals and four assists in four games, and the 26-year-old looks like he’s well on his way to his best NHL season. He signed for one year and $1.4 million this summer after the Penguins acquired him from the Oilers at the trade deadline. Now he’s heading for a big payday next summer.
Player of the Weak
Patric Hornqvist has zero points the past six games and just one goal in his past 12 games. The 29-year-old is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals in an 82-game season for the first time since his rookie season in 2008-09. That the Penguins have done so well while getting so little from an important scorer speaks to their depth.
(So I wrote that paragraph, then Hornqvist broke the slump when he scored the Penguins’ sixth goal Tuesday night. He went from on pace for 18 goals to 22 goals. He still hasn’t been good lately, so the point remains!)
One Rogue Question
“EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE”
Ryan Whitney: There was a lot expected after some early hype but both were ultimately disappointing.
“EPISODE 2: ATTACK OF THE CLONES”
Christian Ehrhoff: I remember seeing the movie and the player in a Penguins uniform, but I don’t remember anything about either and I know none of it was good.
“EPISODE 3: REVENGE OF THE SITH”
Jaromir Jagr: You know you’re still mad about him choosing the Flyers when he returned from Russia. But who has the high ground now?
“EPISODE 4: A NEW HOPE”
Mario Lemieux: This makes more sense if the “Star Wars” saga came out in order. Actually, who am I kidding? None of this makes sense.
“EPISODE 5: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK”
David Steckel: I know the question wanted Penguins, but this is the movie where the bad guys win. Although, Steckel is a good guy. It was an accident. Be nice to him. And this confuses Lemieux and Crosby on this timeline. Steckel didn’t collide with Lemieux. I don’t know.
“EPISODE 6: RETURN OF THE JEDI”
Mario Lemieux: Remember when he came back from Hodgkin’s? That was cool.
“EPISODE 7: THE FORCE AWAKENS”
Sidney Crosby: You could say that when Crosby is healthy, he is a Rey of light. I’m sorry.
“ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY”
It’s unnecessary, doesn’t have the best reviews and was solely designed to make a bunch of money from fans, so instead of a player, let’s say the perfect comparison is the Penguins’ jersey for their Stadium Series game against the Flyers.