NHL.com offers in-depth analysis of each of the 32 teams between August 8 and September 8. Today, three issues to watch for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
32 IN 32 PENGUINS: Preview of the 2022-23 season | The best hopes | Analysis for poolers
1. Was keeping the core intact the right decision?
Sidney Crosby, 35, will be playing his 18th NHL season in Pittsburgh. The captain will be well accompanied with the center player Evgeny Malkin36, and defender Kris Letang35, who will be back under a new contract.
These three hardly ever eased off last season.
Crosby tied his linemate Jake Guentzel led the team with 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in 69 games, while Letang led Penguins defensemen with a personal best 68 points (10 goals, 58 assists) in 78 games. Malkin averaged over a point per game with 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games after undergoing knee surgery this offseason.
Video: PIT@NYR, #5: Guentzel equalizes with his second goal
They led the Penguins to three Stanley Cup victories (2009, 2016, 2017) and 16 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoff appearances. The Penguins believe Crosby, Malkin and Letang give them the best chance to stay competitive.
“The Penguins gave me my chance,” Letang said July 7. “They took care of me like I was their son. […] When you feel such a feeling, it’s natural. You want to end your career there. »
2. Tristan Jarry is he the solution in net?
Jarry became the undisputed number one goaltender in the 2020-21 season, after the two-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray was traded to the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 7, 2020. In two seasons since, he hasn’t been able to enjoy the same level of playoff success as his predecessor.
In the regular season, Jarry was solid with a 93-47-13 record, a 2.57 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in six NHL seasons. But he went 2-6 with a 3.00 GAA and .891 save percentage in the playoffs.
A lower-body injury kept him out of the first six games of last spring’s tournament. He returned with 26 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of Round 1. Jarry has therefore still not proven that he can lead the team far after the regular season.
“It’s tough,” admitted Jarry after the Game 7 loss. “I wish I was with them (the whole series). »
3. Can Mike Sullivan help Pittsburgh get past a playoff round?
After being hired on December 12, 2015, Sullivan won the Stanley Cup in each of his first two seasons. But the Penguins haven’t won a series since knocking out the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round in 2018.
Sullivan remains respected in the locker room, and over the past few seasons has made the Penguins a competitive team despite a plethora of injuries to key players. That said, these campaigns all ended in early elimination.
At this point, another playoff appearance may not be enough. Sullivan must lead the team to another long run.
« We try to analyze each experience as objectively as possible, » Sullivan said. We must leave aside the emotions associated with these experiences. […] It’s my job to lead these players. We care about them very much. »