With the 2021-2022 season roughly one-third of the way completed, Pittsburgh finds itself just outside of a playoff berth in the East playoff race.
After hitting the accelerator on the rebuild in the offseason with the acquisitions of JT Miller and Anders Lee, you could say that the season has been a bit disappointing thus far.
However, Penguins GM Matt Swackhammer doesn't necessarily see it that way.
So far, Pittsburgh has done a much better job than last year on the defensive side of things. The pens currently boast a top 5 PK unit at 85.71% and have been at the top in shots per game per opponent with allowing a little under 31 shots per game. Additionally, Pittsburgh has been stellar in the face-off dot currently in 3rd in the league at 54.76%.
JT Miller and Anders Lee have also been fantastic, leading the team with 9 and 11 goals, respectively. Jake Oettinger is also starting to grow into the starter's role with 13 starts thus far with a save percentage of .925% with the pens earning 20 points in those 13 starts.
With the good news above, you are probably wondering how are the Pens sitting out of a playoff spot currently?
Well, let's start with Frederik Anderson. Anderson, the pending UFA and last year's starter, has been abysmal to start the season. Anderson, a notoriously slow starter in the NHL with the Leafs, has won just 2 starts out of 12 and has a .890 save percentage.
Last year's rookie sensation Kappo Kakko has just 3 goals despite playing favorable minutes.
Also related, the Penguins power play is bottom 3 in the league. Jeff Carter also just has 10 points in 25 games.
Overall, the Penguins still feel very confident in their ability to make the playoffs. Swackhammer feels that the power play will turn around with Kakko converting his chances and Makar continuing to QB the PP.
Finally, Swackhammer knows that Anderson must play better, or they will have to turn to Oettinger more than they have. It is not Oettinger's net for himself yet, but it could be soon if Anderson doesn't improve his .890 save percentage.