A couple of season previews have dropped in recent days on the Penguins. Dom Luszczyszyn has a really good one at The Athletic, documenting with his data and research. Dom’s model has the Pens going for a 96 point season, but with a less than certain outlook about how the season could go. His lede was amusing.
Every year it’s the same story with Pittsburgh.
Preseason: This looks like the year the Penguins fall out of the playoffs.
Regular season: This team looks about as good as usual.
Mid-season: Too many injuries, not sure how they survive this.
End of season: Wow, they survived that. This team is deep and is a big Cup threat.
Playoffs: Lose in the first round.
Offseason: They did what?
And here we are again at the preseason stage of the discourse. The Penguins won the division looking even better than many expected, but once again lost in the opening round — continuing a frustrating three-year trend.
Usually, the playoff loss isn’t enough to deter the model much as the Penguins have been expected to be among the leaders in their division in each of those past seasons. Pittsburgh is technically there ahead of 2021-22, but the team’s position is much more precarious than year’s past. For the first time in a long time, Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes are vulnerable.
It’s a very well-written and informative preview, I certainly recommend checking it out if you’re so inclined.
Pittsburgh Penguins 2021-22 season preview— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) October 3, 2021
This is the most vulnerable the Penguins have looked in a long time, especially with Crosby and Malkin out to start the season.https://t.co/VLa5jAyFaL pic.twitter.com/4NgvHYSrix
Then at nhl.com Wes Crosby took a peak at the team’s upcoming season. He’s also buying stock in Jason Zucker right now.
During training camp Zucker described his play last season as “awful.” He scored 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 38 games, mostly at second-line left wing. He had 67 shots on goal last season, but Zucker said he plans to be more active in 2021-22. He’s also been encouraged to shoot more by Sullivan, who said Zucker’s at his best when playing aggressively.
Overall, most outlets seem to have the same questions: how will the Pens handle their depleted center situation and what will Tristan Jarry’s season look like seem to be the biggest questions around the team right now. It will be a case study for a team built around Hall of Fame caliber centers for so long (Lemieux, Francis, Crosby, Malkin, etc) that now suddenly has a lot more firepower on the wings. Can players like Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust and Zucker and Kasperi Kapanen provide enough to keep the team afloat early on?
The regular season starts a week from today, so it’s almost time for the previews to end and the action to kick off. The Metropolitan/East division is always a frenzy with so many large market teams that spend money, plus younger upstarts and old power houses looking to hold on, the distribution of the top six teams this year could really break in a lot of different ways. From all accounts, it looks like Pittsburgh will be right in the thick of the chase again.