When the Pittsburgh Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, they did it with a great deal of production from the depth players.
Top line players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin produced their fair share, but it was the bottom six that pushed them over the edge.
Guys like Phil Kessel, Nick Bonino, and Matt Cullen became difference makers.
Down the stretch of the 2021-22 season into the playoffs, the Penguins’ depth has evaporated. Jeff Carter, Evan Rodrigues, and Brock McGinn, just to name a few, are yet to score a point in the 2022 Playoffs.
Sure, it’s only been two games, and the New York Rangers dominated a lot of the play in the second match, but it was a gradual decline to end the regular season.
Starting with Carter, the offensive output was still there in patches in the closing month of the season, but he failed to truly drive play for the Penguins.
In the final 15 games of the season, Carter was a minus-10, pushing his rating to a minus-8 on the year.
Carter has been a decent producer with the Penguins this season, posting 45 points (19-26) in 76 games, but he needs to do something when the games have a little more meaning.
Much like Rodrigues and Kasperi Kapanen, if Carter can find whatever stride he hit down the stretch in 2020-21, he can be dangerous for the Penguins.
Players like McGinn and Teddy Blueger have a particular focus on defensive play, but they need to utilize the offensive ability they have. Blueger reached a career high in assists and points respectively with 19 and 28, so everyone knows the playmaking ability is there.
Now that the playoffs are here, it’s time for him to utilize the puck moving skill and find a guy like McGinn for a depth goal or two.
Two games is not a huge sample size, but given how the stretch run in the regular season went, the depth needs to step up in order for the Penguins to win.
The Penguins have the star power, ability, and depth to make real noise in the playoffs, it’s just a matter of the right players hitting the right notes.
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