Despite being without 1/3 of their current lineup, the Pittsburgh Penguins are just one point out of 1st place in the Metropolitan division and from being tied for the most points in the league. A playoff spot would mark their 11th straight appearance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It will be the longest streak in the league after this season as the Red Wings run of 25 straight years with a postseason berth will come to an end. Pittsburgh’s injuries have forced head coach Mike Sullivan to juggle the lines a bit to find some combinations for the Penguins first line and the best one he’s found is the Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Conor Sheary line which has been fantastic the past couple weeks.
Pittsburgh Penguins First Line Develops Instant Chemistry
This line has truly been a match made in heaven for Sidney Crosby. He is having another fabulous season and just recently hit the 40 goal mark for just the second time in his career. He’s also now tied with Connor McDavid for the scoring lead with 80 points. In Sheary and Guentzel, he gets two very young, but also two of the smartest players on the team when it comes to handling the puck in the zone and creating scoring chances. These are arguably the two best wingers he’s played with over his career and that’s counting Marian Hossa for the spring in 2008.
Conor Sheary’s Play
Conor Sheary has not only had his first 20 goal season in the NHL this season, but his 5V5 Points/60 is 3.31 which is truly spectacular. He’s at the top of the team when it comes to that category and it helps a lot when he’s playing with Sidney Crosby. He’s also done it without Crosby on the ice at times this year and this video illustrates it (around the 6 minute mark).
This play truly shows how underrated Sheary is. He makes an unbelievable pass to Guentzel from behind the net. Sheary has 47 points in 51 games, which is a 75 point pace over an 82 game season. He’s going to earn a nice raise from the Penguins this off-season as he’s a restricted free agent.
Jake Guentzel’s Play
As for Jake Guentzel, he’s been nothing short of fantastic. He has 25 points in 34 games this year and he would be on pace for over 60 points in an 82 game season. Guentzel has improved in each game he’s played this season. Check out this pass from the Panthers game on Sunday for Crosby’s hat trick goal (around the five minute mark).
That’s an amazing pass that only a player like Crosby can get and put it in the back of the net. It shows just how talented Guentzel is and how hot this line is playing right now.
The fact that both Sheary and Guentzel are not forcing the puck to Crosby on every shift also shows that they can create prime scoring opportunities themselves. That showed last game against Florida when both Sheary and Guentzel had three assists for Crosby’s hat trick.
The Penguins will be getting some fresh bodies back soon as Evgeni Malkin returns from his bruised shoulder and winger Bryan Rust returns from a long-term injury. If Mike Sullivan keeps this line together they’ll give the Penguins a great chance at trying to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.