PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost five straight, their general manager has publicly said he believes his team needs a shakeup, and they are 2-4-1 on home ice. Penguins forward Jake Guentzel wasn’t around for the dark times. He’s only seen the 2017 Stanley Cup and the exhausted loss to Washington last season. And he’s showing no fear in the face of the Penguins stiffest headwinds since Mike Sullivan took over in Dec. 2015.
The Penguins fully imploded that November and December which led to Mike Sullivan’s promotion and the team rebirth. If Rutherford’s words have made a dent in Guentzel, he wasn’t tipping his hand.
“I don’t think (there’s extra pressure). We have to use it for a spark,” said Guentzel in his typical low key manner. “We know we haven’t been that good. And we have to be better.”
Guentzel has nine points (5g, 4a) in 14 games this season, which is a better pace than his sophomore season, last year. He notched only 48 points (22g, 26a) despite high expectations.
Those high expectations of Guentzel are born of his gaudy playoff statistics. In 37 playoff games, Guentzel has 42 points (23g, 19a). The Penguins have been waiting and counting on Guentzel to provide that offensive spark beside Sidney Crosby. He played the first 13 games this season beside Crosby but was shuffled to the third line in the last game against Washington.
The line did not score, but the Penguins controlled the puck and territory. Guentzel was on the ice for only two shots against, though the Penguins were forced to shuffle their lines in the third period after Evgeni Malkin’s match penalty. Guentzel was often beside Crosby in the final 18 minutes.
But Rutherford did not back down after the Penguins improved effort. Friday, Rutherford incited more trade talk.
“It catches everyone’s eye. We know we can be better in all areas of the game,” Guentzel said. “We were a little better last game and things are coming around.”
However, as head coach Mike Sullivan noted in his pre-game media talk regarding the things which made the Penguins successful Thursday, “that’s what’s been absent with any level of consistency.”
Here is the full media chat via our YouTube channel: Pittsburgh Sports Live. Subscribe for notifications of live shows and locker room content.