All-Star picks, Kessel’s snub and a golden celebration

Dave Lozo’s weekly look at the Pittsburgh Penguins and, um, other topical news items.

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back. How did you spend your bye week? Feeling rested and ready to push forward through the second half of the season? Me, too. Let’s recap the Penguins’ past seven days to get ourselves acclimated.

The Penguins beat the Lightning 6-2 on Sunday.

That’s it.

After a week off, the Penguins played once, then were off for two more days.

But the next seven days will be brutal. The Penguins play four games — two against the red-hot Capitals — and two road games in Ottawa and Detroit. The Capitals have won six straight and host the Penguins, winners of five straight, on Wednesday night.

Both the Penguins and Capitals are chasing the division-leading Blue Jackets, but a regulation sweep in these two games would go a long way toward establishing which team lands a top-two spot and first-round home ice in the postseason.

Stars are born

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Evgeni Malkin joined captain Sidney Crosby as part of the Metropolitan Division All-Star squad on Tuesday as the only two representatives for the Penguins. Two of the greatest players in the league, future Hall of Famers, having great seasons, blah blah blah.

Why isn’t Phil Kessel part of this team?

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

There are only 11 spots and the NHL must pick at least one player from each of the seven teams in the division, so it’s really hard to get a third player on an All-Star roster (unless you’re the Blackhawks and the NHL goes out of its way to pick you for anything on NBC).

But is there a reasonable way to get Kessel on the team?

The Devils, Islanders, Flyers and Hurricanes all have one representative. The Capitals have two (Braden Holtby, Alex Ovechkin) as do the Blue Jackets (Seth Jones and Sergei Bobrovsky). There are three avenues the NHL could have taken to get the fan favorite and American hero on the roster, and they all include cutting Jones:

  1. Get rid of John Tavares. Install Nick Leddy on defense. Add Kessel.
  2. Get rid of Wayne Simmonds. Install Shayne Gostisbehere. Add Kessel.
  3. Get rid of Taylor Hall. Install … Damon Severson? Kyle Quincey?

Fine. There’s no way to add Kessel without doing something insanely dumb with someone else on the roster. On the bright side, if the Metro is getting crushed during the game, Kessel may send a fire tweet …

Player of the Week

Matt Cullen
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, we are still doing this. It will be fun.

Congrats to Matt Cullen, who had two assists in the win against the Lightning. So did Crosby, and Conor Sheary had a goal and an assist, but this is my column and all decisions are final.

All hail Matt Cullen’s week.

Player of the Weak

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Malkin had zero points in one game last week. It could be time for the Penguins to look into trading him before his value sinks any lower. He is currently in the midst of a one-game point drought, which could be a sign that Malkin is in decline.

If Malkin doesn’t get on the score sheet against the Capitals on Wednesday, the NHL may have to answer tough questions about why he was chosen for the All-Star Game over Kessel.

One Question

Interesting phrasing. And timing. Why would you ask a question about a golden anniversary? Did anything happen in the news recently that would trigger this question? Oh well.

Well, I’d start by showering the team with a steady stream of warm affection. You’re in for a surprise if you think the Penguins won’t be doused with that sort of stuff during a golden anniversary season. Fans that are wet behind the ears know this team was No. 1 last season and could be No. 1 again this season.

Love like this tends to trickle down from all areas. When the Penguins were on the bottom, people would stand over them and let loose with every vile thing they had inside of them. The team’s current standing should come as a relief to fans.

So hit the players with every last drop of love. Because when it comes to success in sports, it’s a very fluid situation.

Thank you for reading this yellow journalism.