Tag Archives: Jake Guentzel

The Curious Case of Jake Guentzel

Last postseason, the Penguins got to see the true potency of Jake Guentzel‘s shot as he led all postseason goal scorers. It was an incredible feat for the rookie. He scored 29 goals in 65 games between the regular season and postseason.

This season has been a struggle for Guentzel. He is sitting at 16 goals, his total in 40 games last season, through the first 55 games this season. That is a 24 goal pace over 82 games. For a player of Guentzel’s youth, that is a staggering number. But after last season’s explosion I think we can agree that the lack of goals this season are a bit disappointing considering some of the looks he’s gotten. He currently sits at 53.2 CF% which suggests the team creates offense with him on the ice.

Tuesday night against Vegas, Guentzel was able to put home a solid opportunity to get his 16th of the season and his first in five games. He also had a breakaway stopped on a solid opportunity by that former Penguins goaltender.

Guentzel has been scoring inconsistently this year, almost to the tune of Phil Kessel‘s first two years in Pittsburgh. He has endured goalless droughts of 7, 9, and 11 this season as well.

So what exactly is the problem for Guentzel this season?

We’ll start with his responsibilities as the team’s third line center for stretches.

As the third line center, Guentzel was given more of a responsibility defensively to be sound and play in a Nick Bonino type of role. Bonino isn’t close to the level of a game-breaking scorer that Guentzel is. In fact, Bonino has only had three double-digit scoring season’s in his nine seasons. Guentzel has reached double-digits in both of his season’s.

Bonino’s focus in the defensive game and killing penalties on top of his playoff resume is what made him $4 million AAV this past offseason. Guentzel was forced into that role and virtually switched his mindset, something head coach Mike Sullivan would prefer not to have and thus why Jim Rutherford may want ti acquire more depth down the center.

If you consider his changing of linemates on a pretty consistent basis a problem like I do, than you can include that here too. Of course, a lot of guys have been shuffled around this season due to injury and ineffectiveness.

Guentzel started the season with Sidney Crosby after their explosive postseason last year. He only had 3 goals and 7 points in his first 15 games and was moved down the lineup when the Penguins acquired Riley Sheahan to man their third line center. Guentzel, Sheahan and Kessel have found some awesome chemistry.

Unfortunately, it seems Dominik Simon may have lost his lust with Crosby as he has been decisively bad the last few games. This forced Sullivan to break up the third line and move Guentzel back with Crosby for the vast majority of the Vegas game. Subsequently, Guentzel buried one on his first shift with Sid.

They also played the Vegas game with nine forwards as Tom Kuhnhackl and Carter Rowney were injured and Simon didn’t see the ice after the first period.

Guentzel’s season has been far from a disappointment. Everyone on the team has hit a rough patch it seems at some point. Guentzel is too good of a scorer to not end up with 25 goals at season’s end. He has been a part of bad luck and unfortunate circumstances that have hindered his numbers a bit this season. He’ll heat up considerably, especially if he stays with Crosby.

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Young Guys Possess Veteran Traits

The young guns of the Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t long learning from the veterans about winning. Two Stanley Cups in two seasons means most of the up and comers don’t know what losing is. Watching Sidney Crosby every day must be a great motivator.

Conor Sheary skates low with the leg strength style and passing vision of captain Crosby. Bryan Rust has the sheer determination of Patric Hornqvist. And the best of the young guns, Jake Guentzel, is a hybrid of just about everyone.

Something that makes Guentzel stand out more than all the rest is his hockey sense. Whether it’s natural or adopted, there can be no doubt it’s been at the very least nurtured by his surroundings. Watch here as he makes space for Crosby by eliminating the stick of the defenseman at the blue line.

This is a very little thing but it goes a long way to creating one or two extra chances a game that other teams don’t get. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are famous for subtly moving sticks away in the slot to open up shooting windows. It looks like this trait is being passed on to the next generation.

COLUMN: Things Are Beginning To Click

The Penguins took down the Islanders on Thursday evening and what a big win it was. They gave the Islanders a point, something that doesn’t look good now but will be meaningless in the long run if things continue the way they are.

The guys are clicking right now. Even despite the loss of Justin Schultz to a lower body injury, they were able to scratch out the 4-3 overtime win and pretty much dominated the game statistically.

I’m just going to provide some bullet points and you can stop me when I’m wrong.

-The special teams was a perfect 100% on Thursday. The Penguins were able to eek out two power play goals, Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel being the culprits. The Penalty Kill, on the other hand, was sensational. “I thought our penalty kill was great tonight,” Sullivan said. They truly were. It seemed they had more of a willingness to block shots and Tristan Jarry did a good job stopping the shots that did get through to him.

-Both Guentzel and Kessel are absolutely killing it in terms of scoring. Guentzel scored his 13th tonight ad is on pace for 36 goals. Will he get there? We’ll see. I think he reaches 30 on the year and no one is going to complain about that. Kessel is playing some of the best all-around hockey of his career. I predicted at the beginning of the season that he would have 80 points this year. He’s got 14 goals and 35 points in 30 games. At this pace, he’ll hit 80.

-Did the Penguins really lose their starting goaltender? You wouldn’t know it if you are just tuning into the Penguins season. Jarry has been sensational in the absence of Matt Murray and has done everything you could ask and more. The Penguins were worried about Jarry’s development if he was riding the bench in Pittsburgh but he has been great in injury relief. 5-1-0 with a 2.39 GAA and a .921 SV%? I will sign up for those numbers every time.

Matt Hunwick was the most unlikeliest of heroes in this game. In 3-on-3 overtime, anything can happen. After being stoned by Jaroslav Halak just seconds before potting the game winner, Hunwick had been playing in overtime mainly due to the Schultz injury. He’s never had more than six goals in a season in his career. It’s unlikely he will reach that this season. But Hunwick isn’t as bad as some of the fans portray him. He’s been solid, he just isn’t flashy.

That’s only a few points that can be made. Sidney Crosby is back on top of his game. Patric Hornqvist has been a menace all year long. The list goes on and on.

The team did lose Tom Kuhnhackl for the final period due to injury. They are already thin in the bottom-six and it looks like Greg McKegg will be back in Pittsburgh if Kuhnhackl misses any time. They did give a point to the Islanders which now means that spots 1-5 in the Metropolitan are separated by one point. But if that’s the worst news to come out of the game to, can you be mad?

Jarry shut down one of the youngest and hottest teams in hockey right now for 55 minutes. He had a little blip late in the game but kept it together enough to send it to overtime. That’s the maturity of a veteran goaltender. He’s making huge saves and helping win games before he’s even had 10 at the NHL level.

The Penguins are winners of 5 of their last 6 and have some winnable games coming up on the schedule. While every game is tough, there is no excuse this team can’t win more games and try and break away from the Metropolitan Division pack.

Penguins’ Improvement At 5-on-5

When you work hard, eventually you get rewarded. As much as it’s hard to keep believing this when you’re not getting the bounces, it proves itself true time and time again.

After slumping offensively by Pittsburgh standards for most of the season, Penguins players up and down the roster are finally being rewarded in spades.

Sidney Crosby‘s non-controversial goal on November 24th against Boston explains a lot about the scoring mentality the Penguins possess.

He used his magic hands to knock the puck out of midair, then stayed with it as it landed on goaltender Anton Khudobin‘s stomach. With surgical precision under pressure, he cleanly flicked the puck from stomach to net with a will to score that wouldn’t be denied.

This will continue to be transmitted throughout that locker room and everyone is benefitting. While they may have been struggling to finish chances, this desire has never waivered.

I know it’s hard to think of an NHL player as not wanting to score, but it’s all about appearances. Does a player always have his stick on the ice in the dirty areas? Does a player shoot and then turn away, or shoot and then follow the shot to the net? Does a player ever take a chance that the puck will squirt by a defender and cheat to the weak side knowing full well that if it doesn’t he’ll be caught out of position?

Some players just don’t have offensive awareness. Some players just don’t compete for those loose pucks. That’s what makes guys like Patric Hornqvist, for example, so special. He’s in the net just as often as the puck is, and if you think everyone wants to score as much as he does think about why we miss him so much when he’s out of the lineup.

Then we have to look at Bryan Rust. It’s always fun to see someone streak in on a breakaway, pick his spot, and snipe it first try. What’s more exciting is the breakaway goal Rust scored against Philadelphia. He blocked a shot, which is awesome enough. Then he won a battle up the ice, fighting off the defender to win a scoring chance. The most positive thing of all is how even though he didn’t get everything on his shot, he followed up and stuck with it long enough to take that little extra stab. He ended up knocking it in with the shaft of his stick. Had he not had the will to score, the desire to follow that puck through, it would have been just another missed opportunity for someone who didn’t do everything possible to try and score.

Hornqvist got one off the shaft of his stick in the same period, simply by never giving up on the puck. Jake Guentzel then tied the game with 1:04 left by making sure he did everything he could to get some kind of touch. It went off his body and in.

Earlier in the year, the grittiness was missing. Over the past two weeks it’s been building but not producing. Now it’s finally balancing out. Those aren’t lucky bounces. Those are payments earned.

Pens On Verge of Offensive Outbreak

The Penguins can only not be the Penguins for so long.  They’ve surprisingly had struggles scoring goals all season, especially at even strength.  They rank 19th in the NHL in goals per game, which is very un-Penguin-like.

Well you are witnessing the end of the offensive drought.  The Penguins are back.

The Penguins have scored 5 goals in each of their last 2 games, which is a small sample size, but it has significance:

The first of these 2 games came against the Tampa Bay Lightning, arguably the hottest team in hockey along with St. Louis.  Although their starting goaltender, Andrei Vasileskiy, was not manning the crease for the Lightning, the Penguins were starting their backup, Tristan Jarry, in the tail-end of a back-to-back scenario.  The Penguins not only won this game, but put an exclamation point on the win.  They were clearly the better team throughout the game, and it showed on the scoreboard.

The second of these 2 games was against the Philadelphia Flyers who, despite not having a great season thus far, always show up against the Penguins.  In addition, they unfortunately own the Penguins at Consol/PPG Paints, so a win was far from automatic.  Not only did the Penguins score 5 goals in this game, but they battled back on multiple occasions by erasing 3-1 and 4-3 deficits.

The defense absolutely still needs improvement.  They have been over-aggressive in the offensive zone and thus allowing opponents to have way too many odd-man chances.  That said, their offense is starting to show signs of life.  More importantly, the scorers are starting to score, and the Penguins are beginning to get some scoring from their depth guys:

After a rough start, Bryan Rust has looked fantastic in his past couple of games and has netted a couple of goals as a reward for his play.  I thought the line of him, Carter Rowney, and Carl Hagelin played extremely well against the Flyers.  They had multiple extended shifts and kept Philly pinned in their own end.

Jake Guentzel has 7 goals in his last 8 games, confirming that he is a pure goal-scorer when he is on his game. Guentzel had a rough start to the season, but he is starting to find his groove and regaining his confidence going into early December. Look for Guentzel to continue what he has been doing his past few games.

Phil Kessel has been straight up unbelievable.  He is tied for 4th in the NHL in points, and he leads the Penguins in every offensive category.  He is having an MVP-caliber season if he continues his play.  He has become the cornerstone of the Penguins power play, and has found his scoring touch as well.

Remember when Sidney Crosby died?  Again?  Yeah, he’s fine.  Dominating Philly, scoring OT winners, and scoring 9 points in his last 4 games, including 6 in his last 2.  He is going to be okay, and now that he has found his game, look out.  Remember what happened last time Crosby fell off the face of the earth?  It just might happen again…

Oh, and not to mention, the Penguins have scored 5 in their past 2 games without Evgeni Malkin, who will hopefully be back soon.

The Penguins are now done with the most difficult part of their schedule.  They play Buffalo in a home-and-home series this coming weekend which leads into a 5 game homestand.

The Penguins are on the verge of an offensive outbreak: it starts now.

Guentzel Getting Close To Breakout

The Penguins are struggling. Name a player and they’re currently struggling or did at an earlier point in the year.

One guy that has seemed particularly snake-bitten in the early going is Jake Guentzel. He’s only a few months removed from leading the playoffs in goal scoring and would’ve garnered a lot of Rookie of the Year consideration had he started the year in Pittsburgh.

Yet, some people are worried he was a one-time fluke. This is to tell you he’s not.

Guentzel has some serious talent and comes from a hockey family that won’t allow for him to be a failure. Guentzel is a young breath of fresh air for Sidney Crosby who has had to deal with a lot of guys who weren’t as offensively gifted over the years as Guentzel is. We all love Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis but they didn’t have anywhere near the lethal shot that Guentzel possesses.

Despite only scoring 4 goals and 9 points in the team’s first 17 games, Guentzel showed some signs on Tuesday night that maybe things were on the upswing.

You could argue that recently Guentzel hadn’t been getting really good looks at the net. This is a problem Crosby has seemingly suffered from early on as well. Guentzel finally got a sweet opportunity but received it on his off hand as it was bouncing and couldn’t pull the trigger in time. He actually put a really solid shot on net regardless but Antti Rantta made a really strong save.

Guentzel also seemed to be more engaged at going to the net on Tuesday, something he hadn’t been doing much of recently. A scorer’s best scoring area is in close to the net and Guentzel needs to push back into that area.

With the training camp and postseason run Crosby, Guentzel, and Conor Sheary enjoyed, it wasn’t expected that they would be separated this early into the season. With only 17 games played, there is no reason that Guentzel won’t find himself and avoid the sophomore slump.

Penguins Fantasy Hockey Predictions

Around this time of year, most people are focused on their upcoming fantasy football drafts and not too much so with hockey. I am here to help.

Instead of previewing the entire league, I will be noting some Penguins who I believe should be on your roster regardless of your league size. I will also be noting a few players who could deserve a look in bigger and more deep leagues.

The Inevitable…

Sidney Crosby, C

Whether he is the top pick or the second pick, behind Connor McDavid of course, Crosby will be owned in every single (competitive) fantasy league because he just is the best.

After winning the Rocket Richard last year as the league’s leading scorer, it’s reasonable to believe he can do it again as he is playing at the level we have always known Crosby to be. Maybe even better. It’s reasonable to think that he doesn’t put up 44 goals again but with Crosby, anything is possible.

Couple about 40 goals with 60+ assists and Crosby will help pitch in to win your fantasy league.

Projected Stats: 38 G, 65 A, 103 PTS, +21 +/-, 25 PIMs

Evgeni Malkin, C

In a league where Malkin is very underrated, it’s likely he will be on your draft board, too. A top 5 talent in the league, Malkin could be a second round pick depending on the size of your league.

Malkin was a huge reason the Penguins won the Cup last season and nothing drives him more than winning championships. Malkin, along with a few other teammates, have a chance to three-peat. If that isn’t enough to keep him motivated, I don’t know what is.

The only problem will be his durability.

He has missed some games over the past few seasons for some nagging injuries. This shouldn’t hinder your choice to take him. If he is available, even as high as pick number three, and you have an inclination to take him, don’t hesitate. Malkin is going to have a big year. I’ll say even enough to compete for the scoring title.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 68 A, 99 PTS, +14 +/-, 49 PIMs

Kris Letang, D

Yet another underrated player in the league, Letang will be returning from a major neck operation. And, yet again, if you need a cornerstone defenseman in the first four or five rounds, Letang should be available.

Letang’s neck injury could scare some away. I’d even say he may struggle to really find his game in the first month after being off the ice for over half a year. But, fantasy league’s aren’t won in month number one. They are won with long term investments.

In Mike Johnston‘s final tenure as the head coach of the team, Letang wasn’t being used properly and ultimately was almost useless in any fantasy format. Even with the worst of start of his career, it didn’t stop Letang from almost winning the scoring race amongst defensemen. He also scored the game winning game in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals that season.

Letang’s injury last season may slow him early. But he’ll be very much worth the long term investment come fantasy playoff time.

Projected Stats: 10 G, 55 A, 60 PTS, +20 +/-, 68 PIMs

Matt Murray, G

This is the one that may surprise some fans but this is the NEW face of the “Core Four”.

With Marc-Andre Fleury gone to Vegas, the Penguins have their undoubted goalie of the future and the now.

Murray has won two Stanley Cups in his first two seasons. He will hunt a third. The only problem with Murray? His durability.

Murray has had a few freak and unlucky injuries over the past couple seasons. If a fantasy player values a franchise goaltender in the first few rounds then don’t overthink it and select Murray. He will win close to 40 games if he doesn’t miss time due to injury. He is the defined starter now and if those first two seasons are any indication of what’s to come, you’ll want Murray on your team.

Just make sure to draft a solid back option incase of another freak injury.

Projected Stats: 38 W, 2.41 GAA, .927 SV%, 6 SO

Mid-Round Picks…

Patric Hornqvist, RW

Hornqvist is one of those guys that won’t be anywhere near a point per game player. He can reasonably put up 40-50 points.

Where Hornqvist gets his true value is in the categories leagues.

Hornqvist will likely be towards the top of your team in the hitting category. He takes a fair amount of shots and he likely will begin the season on Malkin’s wing.

Even if you aren’t in a categories league, Hornqvist is worth the look if you’re looking for mid-to-late round depth.

Projected Stats: 17 G, 31 A, 48 PTS, +7 +/-, 60 PIMs

Jake Guentzel, RW

Here is your golden ticket.

A lot of people watched Guentzel light up the NHL world in the playoffs. How many people will take this into consideration during the draft?

Guentzel is 98th according to ESPN’s rankings. In a 10 man league, this would make him a ninth or tenth rounder. That is a serious steal if he goes and does what he did last season. He’ll at least begin the season with Crosby.

Don’t overdraft him, though. He is almost guaranteed to be there into the seventh round of a ten man league. If you get paranoid and want him then, go ahead and take him. The later you take him, the smarter you’ll look.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 31 A, 62 PTS, +24 +/-, 16 PIMs

Conor Sheary, LW

The other wing on Crosby’s line, Sheary will also excel if he stays with Crosby. Buyer beware, though.

Every player goes through slumps, but the one Sheary suffered in last year was atrocious in the playoffs. The playoffs don’t matter in fantasy, but it’s proof that if Sheary slumps, it could get very ugly.

He is a solid player with upside but I wouldn’t consider him before round ten. If someone takes him before then, you can find value elsewhere in some other players around the league.

He’ll play with Crosby but it remains to be seen how long. Don’t overdraft him but if he’s there and legitimately the best available, don’t hesitate.

Projected Stats: 18 G, 25 A, 43 PTS, 13 +/-, 31 PIMs

Sleepers…

Phil Kessel, RW

I know it’s odd to see Kessel’s name as a sleeper to some. But, a lot of people are down on him lately.

So depending on how you classify Kessel’s talent, he is a sleeper.

Kessel has played on the third line for the majority of his Penguins career but has found some guys he meshes well with. He could finally end up back with Malkin on a permanent basis.

Kessel will still be anywhere from a third to fifth rounder depending on league size so it’s tough to title him a sleeper. But there is a solid chance he could contend for a Rocket Richard. He is THAT much of a scorer. He just has to do it for a season to get fans to fully buy in again.

Projected Stats: 31 G, 50 A, 81 PTS, -1 +/-, 6 PIMs

Justin Schultz, D

Maybe this lengthy, lucrative contract will finally give Schultz the respect he’s earned throughout the league.

Schultz’s offensive rejuvenation in Pittsburgh’s system is something that went unnoticed last year as he was only added by many fantasy teams in the middle of the year. This year, he is a mid-round pick with early-round pick potential.

Again, he isn’t someone you should draft early especially if some other guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Duncan Keith remain available. But Schultz is a guy you shouldn’t let slip if you think he is one of the top three players you’ve got to choose from.

There is a good chance Schultz could put up 50 points. While I think he will fall short, he is a solid option and you wont be able to find him on waivers so take him if you can.

Projected Stats: 9 G, 34 A, 43 PTS, +19 +/-, 20 PIMs

Overview…

Just because a few guys were omitted from the list doesn’t mean they aren’t worth drafting. A lot of them could be waiver claims if you run into injuries. Or, even I it is late in the draft and you aren’t sure who to take, take them.

Regardless, just win the league. It’s all about bragging rights, correct?

P.S. The staff is going to have their own fantasy hockey league that we will keep you in touch with.

If you would like to be a part of the “LTP Community” league, DM me upon reading this and I will reserve your spot.