The Pittsburgh Penguins’ need their third-line to start contributing consistently towards the scoreboard to take the pressure off the top-six.
It all starts with center Brandon Sutter.
Sutter, who’s anchoring the third-line, is skating to a minus-2 rating so far this year. While it’s still early in the season, he must start producing to ignite the rest of the line.
Recording just six points (2G, 4A) through 18 games, Sutter has remained relatively healthy, which is a rarity on the team these days. And even though he hasn’t yet produced offensively the way we’d like him to, Sutter only has four penalty-minutes on the season and has avoided putting his team in shorthanded situations.
Providing a sufficient forecheck from game-to-game, Sutter just hasn’t panned out when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
However, the reinsertion of winger Beau Bennett should start to commence the Sutter train. Although Bennett has only two helpers on the year, he’s only played in seven contests due to a lengthy IR stint, but he possesses a strong offensive game to go on a tear.
Originally projected to come out as Evgeni Malkin’s right winger to start the season, Bennett arguably has just as much responsibility to carry the third-line as Sutter does. Despite just being a wingman, if he can get the ball rolling it’ll most certainly have a domino-effect on the other two skaters.
The other winger is a toss-up because the team uses a variety of players to fill that position. My vote was for forward Jayson Megna, but head coach Dan Bylsma has opted to go with Matt D’Agostini in the last two contests.
D’Agostini has played in four games, does not have a point, and has skated to an unimpressive minus-2 rating so far this season. While it may take a little more time to adjust to his new teammates and to the system, for the time being he just isn’t the right option for third-line duties.
The team has scored 50 goals on the season, and 30 of them were registered by the top two lines. Although the third-line doesn’t have the sole responsibility of cashing-in tallies, it’s important for them to still be a group they can rely on when the top-six can’t come through.
When Pittsburgh won the cup in 2009, forwards’ Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, and Jordan Staal were a huge factor in their championship run. Since all of them have departed, it feels as though the third-line is run by a bunch of ghosts.
You hate to use the word soft when describing a group of hockey players, but that’s what the line seems to be right now.