The Penguins show a lot of encouraging signs in a key win over the Bruins

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 31: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates an overtime goal scored by Evgeni Malkin #71 against the Montreal Canadiens at PPG PAINTS Arena on December 31, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 31: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates an overtime goal scored by Evgeni Malkin #71 against the Montreal Canadiens at PPG PAINTS Arena on December 31, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Penguins may not have wowed fans offensively against the Boston Bruins, but their game showed a lot of promise moving into the playoffs

Fresh off a Saturday matinee game against the New Jersey Devils, the Penguins took on the Bruins in what could be a first round playoff matchup. And there was a lot to like after the game.

For a team to be a Stanley Cup contender, a looooot of pieces need to fall into place.

Star power is always a must (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel among others have that covered), but as has been the case for the Penguins during the middle years of the Crosby/Malkin era, depth is a must-have.

Of the three odds-on favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season, according to DraftKings, the Penguins match up well in scoring depth. The Colorado Avalanche have 14 double-digit point-getters this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have 16 and the Vegas Golden Knights have 17.

The Penguins have 17 double-digit scorers this season, too.

The Penguins can win games 5-1, 7-6, and even 1-0, as evidenced by the Boston Bruins win Sunday afternoon.

Of course, the Penguins will need more than just a high-scoring offense, and the season-long improvement by the defensive corps has been encouraging. The Pens won’t be a top defensive team, but they can be good enough.

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Aside from chipping in offensively across the board, with Letang scoring 17 points in his last 16 games, Brian Dumoulin scoring nine in his last 11 games, Mike Matheson scoring 11 in his last 13 games and Cody Ceci scoring 11 in his last 14 games, the defensive work ethic has been incredible.

Dumoulin brings his typical workhorse mentality, evening out Letang’s erratic play style, but the play from the second pairing of Matheson and Ceci has been revolutionary — especially over the last 10-15 games.

Matheson’s cerebral skating ability, and Ceci’s consistency, combined with his offensive surge, has been a boon for the Penguins. I was perhaps tougher on the pairing in my defensive grades than I should have been, and happy to be shown even better play, the pairs’ defensive prowess was on full display against the Bruins’ attack.

Matheson’s quick stick, breaking up passes and nabbing pucks from opposing forwards, and Ceci’s defensive positioning left the pair well equipped to snuff out opposing scoring chances. Their 18 or minutes of ice time has been just what the Penguins needed, and they were magical against the Bruins.

A strong top-four, and an improving third pairing of John Marino and Marcus Pettersson, leaves the Penguins in good shape.

Perhaps the most important part of the equation comes from the goaltenders’ crease, however, that much was apparent with the duo of Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have been the unsung heroes this season, and despite a rough stretch tanking Jarry’s stats to begin the season and a rough stretch tanking DeSmith’s to begin the month of April, both courtesy of subpar defending in front of them, they’ve both been very good for the Pens this season.

Jarry bounced back from one of the worst periods of his career against the New Jersey Devils last Tuesday by allowing one goal on 31 shots to the Devils last Thursday and shutting out the Bruins Sunday afternoon.

With a weird Bruins team that boasts one of the best lines in hockey and a lot of… wild cards behind it, Jarry was still effective in shutting down some high-caliber chances from all-world players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

Jarry-DeSmith is no Fleury-Murray, but they shouldn’t be too far off, and it only takes one of them getting hot to end the season now to give the Penguins an advantage in the playoffs. Luckily, the Pens have two guys who have flashed their potential this season.

There’s a lot to like about the Penguins right now. The Guentzel-Crosby-Rust line is playing as well as anyone in the NHL, the newly minted “Run ZMC” (courtesy of a Penguins Jesus Twitter post) line of Jason Zucker, Jared McCann and Jeff Carter looks great, Teddy Blueger continues to be one of the best bottom-six forwards in the league AND Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Tanev will be back soon — and that’s just forwards.

The Penguins’ defensive top four is electric right now, and John Marino and Marcus Pettersson have another level to reach yet. Jarry-DeSmith can both get hot at just the right moment, too.

Sure, the Penguins might not have the overall consistency of teams like the Avalanche or the Golden Knights, but they look to have as good a shot as anyone to make another run this season. Oh, and they’re also first in the division right now. No big deal.

Although, I thought the same last season though…

Next. Check out a few of the greatest goals from Sidney Crosby. dark

How are we feeling about the Penguins this season? Do we like their chances entering the playoffs?