NHL Team Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins have the NHL’s longest active streak of playoff appearances, making it for the 15th year in a row in 2021. However, that streak could be in jeopardy with lingering health problems for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin early in the season. Crosby is still recovering from offseason wrist surgery while Malkin will be out until nearly American Thanksgiving while rehabbing from surgery as well.
However, the rest of the roster still has plenty of talent and is capable of keeping the team afloat until those two return. And with that kind of star power, “afloat” may be good enough.
Pittsburgh’s biggest additions among the forward group both bolster the third line. Wingers Brock McGinn and Danton Heinen will play on the outside with Teddy Blueger up the middle.
McGinn is a solid two-way forward who finished third on the Carolina Hurricanes in shorthanded time on ice last season despite only playing in 37 of 56 regular season games. He also led the Canes with 2:09 shorthanded time on ice per game. Pittsburgh’s putrid penalty kill (77.4%) was the fifth-worst in the league last season and the second-worst of any playoff team from last season (Nashville was worse at 75.6%), so McGinn’s PK ability will be huge.
Similarly, Heinen is a good depth acquisition who can play on either wing. He’s tough on the boards and a good skater but has yet to come close to replicating his 47-point season with the 2017-18 Boston Bruins. After playing with the Anaheim Ducks over the past few seasons, Heinen should be hungry for a return to the postseason.
With goaltending a cause for concern, the Penguins also brought in Louis Domingue to be the backup to Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith. Domingue will start the season in the AHL.
With Crosby and Malkin out, Jeff Carter, who was acquired at last year’s deadline, has moved into the first line center role. Carter has experience in that spot from his time with the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings, but at age 36, it’s not a role that is sustainable for a majority of the season.
Still, Carter was effective for Pittsburgh last season with Malkin injured late in the year. He scored nine goals and two assists in 14 games with the Penguins after the trade deadline. Carter also led the Pens in playoff goals (four) and finished second in playoff points (five).
Another player with massive pressure on his shoulders this season is goaltender Tristan Jarry. A Jekyll and Hyde type of player, Jarry had an excellent regular season last year (25-9-3, 2.75 GAA, .909 save percentage, two shutouts) but he’s pulled a disappearing act in the playoffs. Over the last two postseasons, he has a 2-3-2 record, a 2.90 GAA, and a .894 save percentage. Last year, he also gave up a brutal goal that ultimately cost the Penguins Game Five; Pittsburgh was then eliminated in Game Six.
There was concern over whether or not the Penguins would protect Jarry in the expansion draft, and ultimately they did, but the leash isn’t going to be very long this season. As an organization, Pittsburgh has shown it is ok with putting Casey DeSmith in net. But at the same time, they wouldn’t have signed Domingue if they were completely confident in those two.
DeSmith is in the final year of his contract, so he’ll be pushing for ice time to position himself for a nice payday on his new deal. Jarry has the lock on the starting job, for now, but his role is somewhat precarious.
Pittsburgh Penguins Season Predictions and Odds
2021-22 Over/Under Point Total: OVER 96.5 (+100), UNDER 96.5 (-120) Metropolitan Division Title Odds: +475 (tied for third-best) Eastern Conference Champions Odds: +1300 (tied for seventh-best) Stanley Cup Odds: +2500 (10th-best)
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.