The Pittsburgh Penguins open their 2022-23 regular season schedule on Thursday night against the Arizona Coyotes and I have some fearless predictions for how it is all going to go. Some might be wrong. Some are sure to be wrong. But let’s go with it.
1. The Penguins playoff streak will continue
Yes there is going to come a point in time where it ends, and there is going to be a point where Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are not able to carry the team anymore.
We are not at that point just yet.
I know everybody is fed up with the lack of postseason success, and it is understandable, but this is still a damn good hockey team and they made the smart decision to bring back the core.
Some non-playoffs teams from a season ago in the East did get better, but I am not sure anybody did enough to make up the 20-plus point gap the Penguins had over all of them.
This is a playoff team, a darn good playoff team, and it is still one that can do something if it gets some better goaltending luck.
2. Kris Letang will have a top-five Norris Trophy season
Not going to say that he is going to win it (Cale Makar says hello), but I think he is going to very much be in the running. Again. Even as he gets into his mid-30s he is not showing any signs of slowing down and he might be coming off one of the absolute best all-around seasons of his career. It was enough to get him into the top-seven of the Norris voting, his second consecutive year in the top-10 and the third time in the past four years he was there.
His ability to still be an elite point producer (as well as his still strong defensive play) is going to again get him plenty of attention.
Voters also love old guys that are great players and have not yet won individual awards. He will get some of those votes if he has another strong year.
3. Jason Zucker bounces back and scores 20 goals
This might seem crazy to some, but I really loved what I saw from Zucker a year ago when he was healthy.
The problem is that he was never healthy, and when he was, he was completely snakebit with a sub 8 percent (7.8 percent) shooting percentage.
Even with that he was still on a 16-goal pace over 82 games. Is it really a stretch to think that if he can play a reasonable number of games and get some better shooting luck that he can not hit 20 goals? He might not even score enough to satisfy everybody, or even justify the price they paid in terms of trade assets and salary cap commitments over the past few years, but I still think he has some value to give.
4. Tristan Jarry re-signs
Something in the neighborhood of four years, $25 million. It may not happen right away, they may want to see how the season starts off, but you have to think this is going to get done.
They do not really have any other options beyond this season, and as long as he gets off to a strong start it will get the wheels moving pretty quickly. Especially after the way he played a year ago.
5. Sidney Crosby tops 100 points this season
Wild fact that might surprise: Sidney Crosby only has two 100-point seasons over the past 12 years.
Part of that is the way offense was watered down through the early 2010s. Part of it is due to injury. Part of it is due to shortened seasons. But he has not hit the 100-point mark since 2018-19 season, but I think he gets back there this season.
His scoring pace a year ago was right on track for 100 points in an 82-game season, and I just feel like we are going to see an even more motivated Crosby this season. With Jake Guentzel and Rickard Rakell on his wings, I see a monster season for all of them, Especially the captain.