New Year’s resolutions are always made with good intentions, but almost all of them fizzle out by the third week of January.
In the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, I’m sure there are a few players on the roster who have goals they want to accomplish heading into this new year.
Bryan Rust: prove that 2020 was no fluke
Prior to the 2019-20 season, Bryan Rust’s career goal and point total in a regular season was 13 goals and 38 points respectively, coming in the 2017-18 campaign. Last year, Rust exploded into a form we had never seen from the winger before. Playing and forming a chemistry alongside Evgeni Malkin perhaps aided Rust in his final point totals. But with 27 goals and 56 points in 55 games played, Rust was on pace for an 83-point season.
Rust will enter the 2021 season with only 56 games to play. While I’m not sure the Michigan native will replicate a point-per-game pace over the whole season, if Rust can finish with 20 goals and roughly 45 points, the $3.5 million price tag won’t look so horrible after all.
Jake Guentzel: stay healthy, hit 25 goals
Jake Guentzel’s 40-goal 2018-19 crusade came as a welcomed surprise. Finally, the top-six had found a bona fide winger to justly play alongside Sidney Crosby.
Last year, Guentzel was limited to just 39 regular season games due to a shoulder injury that would keep him out of action until the eventual return to play in August. But before he was forced out of the lineup, Guentzel looked primed to reproduce his previous season.
The winger had already scored 20 goals and 43 points in the 39 games he played, a 90-point season over a traditional 82-game schedule.
With only 56 games this time around, I will be generous to Guentzel. If he can stay healthy and hit the 25-goal mark, it would be a win-win.
Kasperi Kapanen: somehow justify the value of trading for you
Kasperi Kapanen: two-time Pittsburgh Penguin. A bit of a strange thing to say, but nevertheless, here we are.
Kapanen’s resolution may be a bit of a harder one to accomplish, but I think he has the tools, and certainly the opportunity, to get it done.
In August, Jim Rutherford re-acquired the Finnish forward from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for (primarily) up-and-coming prospect Filip Hållander, and Pittsburgh’s 1st-round pick, 15th overall, in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. That was, and still is, a steep price to pay for a player who has yet to hit the 50-point mark in his NHL career.
What will Kapanen look like playing on the right side of (presumably) Sidney Crosby? Will he hit 50+ points in a shortened regular season? Unlikely, but if Kapanen can hit 40-45 points, it may take a bit of the sting away from such a one-sided trade.
Tristan Jarry: show everyone that the team made the right decision in net
A bit of an unknown here. Last year, Tristan Jarry played so well that he basically kicked Matt Murray out of the crease. Add in a surprising-but-deserving All-Star selection, and all of a sudden, the Penguins may have found their long-term future in the net. Or have they?
Jarry has just 62 NHL games to his resume. A very short sample size, but throw in 34 career wins, a .914 save percentage, and a 2.61 GAA, and maybe there is something special about the former second-round pick?
It seems like Pittsburgh’s starting goaltender will receive some sort of flak until the end of time, but Jarry has no real competition behind him now. Can he build on an impressive start to his NHL career and finally bring some stability to the position?
This may be the biggest question surrounding the team heading into the new year.
Are there other players that should have a New Year’s resolution lined up? Let us know down below.