The Pittsburgh Penguins and their grades fluctuated in the back-and-forth battle against the Washington Capitals. The Penguins were without Evgeni Malkin, the Capitals without Alex Ovechkin, but the Penguins’ depth beat the Washington depth. Jake Guentzel added an overtime winner to punch the Penguins ticket the playoffs.
The Penguins will take a night to breathe. It’s been an extraordinary season with extraordinary circumstances. They’ve survived 14 games in 23 days, 13 games in 21 days, and questions from me.
“We’re going to enjoy this one tonight. You know, these guys have competed extremely hard all year long to earn the privilege to compete for the Stanley Cup in the playoffs. And it’s a hard league and it’s not easy to make the playoffs,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “So I’m certainly proud of the group for what they’ve accomplished to this point. By no means are any of us satisfied. We understand that there’s a lot of work to do here, but we’re going to take a deep breath tonight and just enjoy it.”
It’s important to note how the Penguins have won two of their last three games. The styles were not similar, nor were the players who performed above their paygrade. Different players stepped up in different moments.
Thursday’s game has some interesting grades, but the chalkboard offers a ton of insight, too. The Penguins struggled to do the things they need to do against Washington. If not for a herculean game by Kasperi Kapanen, that would have been a very different game.