The Pittsburgh Penguins as a team are on a four-game losing streak which ties their longest losing streak this year. It is also only the third time they’ve lost four in a row since Mike Sullivan took over the team in December of 2015. It’s amazing that they were able to lock up their 11th straight playoff berth so quickly considering the lineup that they are currently dressing. Injuries are the biggest reason why the Penguins are not playing well, but one of the players who is in the biggest slump of his season is Phil Kessel. However, It may be only a matter of time before he goes on a tear.
Slumping Phil Kessel Needs to Turn it on Soon
Playing with Malkin
Even though Kessel only has one goal in 20 games, a lot of it has to do with playing without Evgeni Malkin who has been out the last seven games with a bruised shoulder suffered blocking a shot against the Calgary Flames. Kessel was getting some real good looks despite most of them not going in.
Lately, he’s been playing with Carter Rowney who is one of the call-ups from Wilkes-Barre Scranton due to injuries. Also on the line is Scott Wilson, who isn’t a bad player but just is not the type of talent who is going to be able to get Kessel going. Malkin will be able to get the puck to Kessel a lot more frequently then Rowney. Kessel and Malkin have already shown great chemistry earlier in the season. Expect to see Carl Hagelin eventually join the line, though he should be out of the line-up for a while longer. Here’s a video of Malkin and Kessel on a two-on-one against the Canucks last month at home where Malkin just patiently waits to pass Kessel the puck:
Even though this is the Canucks and Kessel had a wide open net, it goes to show his chemistry with Malkin.
Playoffs are coming
When the games get bigger, Phil Kessel usually elevates his play. It showed last spring, in the playoffs, when he scored some very clutch goals for the Penguins. He had 10 goals and 22 points in 24 playoff games and was a serious candidate for the Con Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP; before it ended up going to Sidney Crosby.
He also produced in previous playoff appearances. Kessel had 11 points in 11 games for the Bruins in 2008-2009. He also scored six points in seven games for the Maple Leafs in 2012-2013, before they blew a three goal lead in game seven.
Kessel has a history of producing in the playoffs and the Penguins are going to need him scoring a lot more, whether it’s on the HBK line (if Hagelin is ready for the playoffs), the power play, or playing on a line with Evgeni Malkin. He’s one of their best players and it’s only a matter of time before he starts scoring goals in bunches.