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Penguins Grades: Crosby Snipes, Team Jells, Issues Persist in Win over CBJ (+)

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PIttsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, NHL Trade

Three periods and three different versions of the Pittsburgh Penguins. There was the loose version in the first period. They were punchers who were able to generate chances but also willing to trade them in the second period. And finally, they were the attacking team that clamped down on their opponent and showed a killer instinct in the third period of their 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Penguins are just one point back of the second place New York Rangers and six back of the top team (Florida) in the NHL.

Of course, the most interesting team in the NHL added a few subplots just to keep the audience engaged. Sidney Crosby inched closer to 500 career goals with a hat trick. He was exceptionally good, especially in the third period and is four goals from the milestone.

But injuries reduced the Penguins bench to 11 forwards after Zach Aston-Reese was injured later in the second period, one day after being activated off the COVID list.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, Aston-Reese might not have any at all.

The big story from Friday might be the team finally jelling. They looked like a cohesive unit. Even when they turned it into a track meet, they were playing together. Overall, the Penguins improved in a few areas and played an significantly better game than they did Thursday against Ottawa.

The net-front was an area in which the Penguins defensemen have been self-critiquing, However, allowing goals and uncovered chances near the net has as much to do with defensemen maintaining position as it does forwards being present to help. They were much better against Columbus.

“Everybody sometimes–center or D–aren’t going to be there and the wingers end up coming down and helping out,” Sidney Crosby said. “You know, it’s all five guys trying to help and either get stick on puck or get bodies and make sure that you box guys out. So it’s totally a team thing.”

However, head coach Mike Sullivan had to (again) send a few messages to others.  The chalkboard is a cornucopia of things done well and areas of improvement. Just like the report card.

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