Welcome to the most comprehensive Pittsburgh Penguins Preview on the internet! This is your one stop shop for everything you need to know about the Penguins and the upcoming 2018-19 NHL Season! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you onto the ice, providing all fans with a detailed look at the Penguins roster. The only thing you’re missing is a pair of skates and a hockey stick!
PENGUINS AND CROSBY EAGER TO BEGIN THEIR QUEST FOR A 3RD CUP IN FOUR YEARS
Earlier this week, the Pittsburgh Penguin’s 31 year old Captain sat at his locker, a little fired up, to say the least, about the start of the 2018 NHL Season.
“It’s always exciting, Game 1,” Crosby said. “A lot of anticipation. Camp feels like it takes forever. It’s good to know we’re going to be getting back at it.”
After winning the Stanley Cup back to back in 2016 and 2017, the Penguins were bounced in the 2nd round last year by the eventual Cup champion Washington Capitals.
Going back to back took it’s toll on the energy of the team, as the Penguins toiled in mediocrity from October through December, entering the 2018 year with a record of 19-18-3.
“For whatever reason, whether it’s a shorter summer or mentally not having that desperation level, I think, as a group, we were kind of lacking that until after Christmas,” Crosby said. “It’s human nature a little bit. Maybe fatigue. Who knows? There’s a lot of different things.”
Now, the team is prepared for a fresh start after a longer than wanted off-season.
“I think you’ve probably got more of a chip on your shoulder coming in having lost and having that fresh in your mind,” Crosby said. “The fact that they went all the way to win, too, and knowing how close you were, those are all great motivating factors.”
Goalie Matt Murray agreed.
“We’ve got to approach every game the same way, whether that’s the start of the season or January, February, whatever it may be,” Murray said. “I think we have to start every single game with the same urgency.”
With the core group of the team entering their 30’s, veterans like defenseman Kris Letang knows that this team is talented enough to win their 3rd Cup in four seasons. Motivation won’t be a problem.
“We want to send a message that we’re still there, and we still want to win more Stanley Cups,” Letang said. “Like Sid said, we have to come in there with a chip on our shoulder and try to regain what we lost.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the team that beat them ended up winning it all.
“Any team you lose to in the playoffs, the next year you’re obviously well aware of them,” Crosby said. “It’s fresh in your mind. That’s pretty typical, whether it’s Washington or any other team you’ve lost to in the past. That’s pretty standard, I think.
“Nobody likes losing, regardless of if it’s a team that goes on to win or doesn’t go on to win.”
Everyone will get their shot at a little redemption when the team opens up the season on Thursday, October 4th, vs those very same Capitals at PPG Paints Arena.
“Washington had a very good year last year and they’re deserving of winning the Stanley Cup, and we tip our hat to them. We know how hard it is ourselves,” Sullivan said. “They had a very strong playoff run. I think the familiarity on both sides and the fact that both organizations have been as competitive as they’ve been for quite some time now, year in and year out, breeds that rivalry. It’s an exciting rivalry. It’s fun to be a part of. It’s two really good teams that battle against one another.”
Jack Johnson, one of the Penguin’s additions in the off-season, is amped to begin his career in Pittsburgh.
”I want to be a contributor, I definitely don’t want to be a passenger,” Johnson said. ”That’s definitely the biggest thing that’s in my head. I want to help these guys win another one.”
Letang is certainly happy to see Johnson as a teammate now.
”I think he’s a pretty complete player,” Letang said. ”He’s got good speed, good size and he doesn’t get enough credit for his skill. He’s really skilled guy. He sees the ice really well.”
Johnson is looking to pad the stats this year with so much talent alongside him.
”That’s one of the exciting things and fun things about playing with guys of this caliber,” Johnson said. ”I’m sure there’ll be a point here or there I may get where I pretty much had nothing to do with play.”
Both Johnson and center Evgeni Malkin have had their fair share of run-ins over the years. Malkin, like everyone else, is happy to have Johnson as a friend instead of a foe for once.
”We gave each other a half hug and said ‘Alright, no more fighting, now we finally get to play with each other,”’ Johnson said with a laugh. ”I said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll just pass you the puck.”
Players like Jamie Oleksiak and Justin Schultz have revitalized their careers playing in Pittsburgh. Johnson wants that tradition to continue, as does fellow defenseman Brian Dumoulin.
”It’s a great place to play,” Dumoulin said. ”Obviously playing in the playoffs and winning helps so I think guys get some confidence coming here and it gets their game back on track.”
A Look at the Pittsburgh Penguins
- Head Coach: Mike Sullivan (4th Season with Penguins)
- Overall Regular Season Record: 200-122-15-45 | 130-66-22 with Penguins
- Penguins Playoff Record: 38-23 (Qualified for playoffs 3 times)
- 2018 Pittsburgh Penguins Roster
- 2018-19 Season Schedule
- Game Tickets
- Five Time Stanley Cup Champions: 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, & 2017
Pittsburgh Penguins Roster
- Centers: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Derick Brassard, Riley Sheahan, Matt Cullen, Dominik Simon, and Derek Grant
- Left Wings: Carl Hagelin
- Right Wings: Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel, Bryan Rust, and Daniel Sprong
The Penguins are loaded, as usual, with talent from top to bottom. Not many teams have the luxury of rolling four capable lines at you game in and game out.
No one has the depth the Penguins do in the middle. It’s hard to go wrong when you have two of the game’s best players in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Jake Guentzel, Derick Brassard, Matt Cullen, and Dominik Simon have the versatility to play both center and wing. The forwards are fast and come at you wave after wave.
“We’ve been a team historically that has played four lines. We believe that’s been part of the reason for some of the success we’ve enjoyed over the last three years,” said Sullivan. “So, we believe we have the makings of four lines we think we can play.”
1st Line: LW Jake Guentzel | C Sidney Crosby | RW Patric Hornqvist
Crosby and Guentzel have a unique bond between them. Crosby can do it all from scoring to passing, and is a monster along the boards in getting the puck. Hornqvist is a beast in front of the net, providing a physical force and a pain in the ass for opposing goalies.
2nd Line: LW Carl Hagelin | C Evgeni Malkin | RW Phil Kessel
Like Crosby, there is little that Malkin isn’t great at. Hagelin and Kessel provide blazing speed at wing for Malkin to make and set up plays. Kessel’s wrist shot is one of the league’s best. Most goalies think they have the right angle to stop Kessel, only to blink and have the puck behind them in an instant.
3rd Line: LW Dominik Simon | C Derick Brassard | RW Bryan Rust
If you think you’ll be getting relief when the first two lines leave the ice, you’re in for a surprise. Derick Brassard is healthy again and ready to produce for the Penguins, as he has for his prior teams. Bryan Rust has the speed to get out in front and create space. Dominik Simon is well loved by his teammates. He is tough to knock off the puck and has great hands and abilities to make plays in tight spaces.
4th Line: LW Matt Cullen | C Riley Sheahan | RW Daniel Sprong
A really versatile group of players here. Both Cullen and Sheahan are interchangeable at center, which will help with faceoffs should one get kicked out of the circle. Sprong has all the talent you can ask for, but he needs to develop his defensive game, so what better place to have him learn than with Cullen and Sheahan, who are known for the defensive prowess?
Reserves: Derek Grant.
Grant is able to play all three positions, which will really aid his playing time when he steps into the line-up eventually.
- Brian Dumoulin, Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Jack Johnson, Jamie Oleksiak, Justin Schultz, Juuso Riikola, and Chad Ruhwedel.
The addition of Jack Johnson and the emergence of rookie Juuso Riikola have bolstered an already impressive defense corps for the Penguins. Each defensive pairing features the luxury of having both a stay at-home and a skilled, puck moving defensemen.
1st Defensive Pairing: Brian Dumoulin | Kris Letang
The team’s top pairing, without a doubt. Dumoulin simply gets the job done. Letang is looking to reestablish himself as one of the league’s best blue liners.
2nd Defensive Pairing: Olli Maatta | Jack Johnson
Johnson will provide a big, physical presence in front of Matt Murray with his ability to clear the crease and block a lot of shots. Maatta is getting better as each year progresses. It’s hard to believe and the age of 24 he has played for five seasons now.
3rd Defensive Pairing: Jamie Oleksiak | Justin Schultz
Schultz has one helluva booming shot. Oleksiak is a behemoth in the lineup. At 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, he’s the team’s biggest player. He’s also willing to mix it up and drop the gloves when needed.
Reserves: Juuso Riikola and Chad Ruhwedel
Riikola was the team’s breakout sensation in camp. He is strong defensively, good with the puck, and will play physical when called upon. Ruhwedel has always been there when needed. He may not crack the line-up much, but when he does, he plays well enough.
- Matt Murray and Casey DeSmith
Starter: Matt Murray
What else can you ask for with the young netminder who already has two Stanley Cups under his belt? One thing is a better glove hand that Murray worked to improve in the offseason.
NHL Season Predictions
- Pittsburgh Penguins
- Washington Capitals
- Columbus Blue Jackets
- Philadelphia Flyers
- New Jersey Devils
- Carolina Hurricanes
- New York Rangers
- New York Islanders
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Boston Bruins
- Toronto Maple Leafs
- Florida Panthers
- Detroit Red Wings
- Buffalo Sabres
- Montreal Canadiens
- Ottawa Senators
Penguins over the Panthers
Lightning over the Flyers
Capitals over the Blue Jackets
Maple Leafs over the Bruins
Penguins over the Capitals
Toronto over the Lightning
Eastern Conference Finals
Penguins over the Maple Leafs
- Nashville Predators
- Winnipeg Jets
- Chicago Blackhawks
- St. Louis Blues
- Dallas Stars
- Minnesota Wild
- Colorado Avalanche
- San Jose Sharks
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Los Angeles Kings
- Anaheim Ducks
- Edmonton Oilers
- Calgary Flames
- Vancouver Canucks
- Arizona Coyotes
Sharks over the Oilers
Predators over the Ducks
Jets over the Blackhawks
Golden Knights over the Kings
Sharks over the Golden Knights
Jets over the Predators
Western Conference Finals
Sharks over the Jets
Stanley Cup Finals
Pittsburgh Penguins over the San Jose Sharks in 6
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.
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As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.
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