Pittsburgh Penguins 2021 Season Preview
By Austin Shaw
Hockey is back, again. It feels like yesterday was the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Let me tell you, I don’t want to talk about that pitiful performance. But, I’m sure I’ll reference it. I’m just disappointed and I do not have high hopes.
If you haven’t read the NHL Season Preview, head to the blog and check that out. It’ll fill you in on a lot of changes this season that I will refer to. A quick recap though: 56 games of division play only, new divisions (the Penguins are in the East), only 4 teams make it out of each division. That will make things very difficult for the Penguins.
The division: Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, New York (Islanders), New York (Rangers), Buffalo an New Jersey.
That is how I see the standings finishing up, but it could go a million different ways. The Rangers and Sabres could be good. The Islanders give the Pens problems. Every single game is going to matter this season. This is undoubtedly the toughest division in Hockey. The Penguins will play every single team in the division eight times. It’s going to be war, night in and night out.
As for guys going out and guys coming in, I’d say the Penguins get an A- for the offseason. Jack Johnson, gone. Thanks for coming. Simon, gone, thanks for coming. Kasperi Kapanen is back in Pittsburgh, how are ya? He was drafted by the Penguins in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft. The Penguins traded him for Phil Kessel, who came in won two cups and left. Now, Kapanen is back and will be joining Sid and Jake on the first line. Man is that exciting. I am really looking forward to those three playing together. Now Kapanen will miss the first two games due to travel issues and quarantine but is supposed to be ready to go after the Philly series.
Matt Murray has been shipped to Ottawa. This is heart breaking for me. I loved that guy. Murray was a brick wall with a hole in the top corner during his time in Pittsburgh. He was so solid besides his glove at times and controlled rebounds better than anyone. He will be missed by me. Thank you Messiah.
Also two big additions are Mike Matheson and Cody Ceci. Both young defensemen at ages 26 and 27. Matheson is going to add some offense from the blue line. While Ceci is going to another big body that can move and rack up some solid ice time along with killing penalties.
Lastly, John Marino signed a huge six-year, $4.4 Million AAV extension which is so exciting. I am glad the Penguins locked this young stud up.
As for how I truly believe the season is going to go, I think it’s going to come down to staying healthy. Last year the Penguins had 300 man games lost and 40 wins in 69 games last year. Which is very good, but I don’t think they’ll be able to win that many games with that many MGL this year. And it’s not just injuries that teams have to worry about. It’s COVID as well. There is no bubble and the NHL did a phenomenal job by having zero positive tests the entire time during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Pens are going to have to dig deep and play to win every series. If the Penguins can beat every team 5-6 times they’ll be golden. One of the positives out of losing Murray and having Jarry and an average DeSmith as a back up is there are not many back to backs. Jarry very well could play 45-50 games this season and to me that is fine. If Jarry plays 50 games and has 35 wins I won’t say a bad thing about it. Write it down. I think the Pens can have themselves a year and chase the cup, but it isn’t going to be easy.
My advice to any Penguins fan is to just enjoy watching Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang play hockey in Pittsburgh. Go into the season with low expectations. Expect a close game but do not expect a win. The Penguins saw Crosby, Malkin, and Letang win a Stanley Cup before their prime. Then they won two during their prime. Now, they’re toward the final stretch of their careers. They undoubtedly can win one more cup. But, do not expect one. It’ll make watching them a lot more enjoyable.
Final Prediction: I believe the Penguins will sneak into the playoffs and lose in the first round. I cannot see Sidney Crosby not finding a way to get in. But, I will not be surprised if they miss the playoffs either. I’m going into this season with the mindset that making the playoffs is a win for them. From there, as always, anything can happen.
My dream for the season: Penguins vs Avalanche in a seven-game series for the Stanley Cup. We can dream can’t we?
Pittsburgh is in Philly tonight and Friday night to start the season. Hopefully the Pens can sweep the series.
As always, Let’s Go Pens and COMON.