Penguins Pre-Season Countdown: Addressing key questions as Pittsburgh fine-tunes for the NHL season. Reviving power play, line adjustments, roster decisions, and depth defense.
As the start of another NHL season looms just a week away, the Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves at a critical juncture, poised to embark on an 82-game journey towards securing a playoff spot. After an offseason filled with trades and free agency moves, the Penguins are still fine-tuning their roster and addressing several pressing questions. Here are the four key issues that demand attention as the pre-season comes to a close.
Table of Contents
1: Reviving the Power Play
The Penguins’ power play has been lackluster in the pre-season, raising concerns among fans and analysts. Despite icing a lineup stacked with star players in their last two exhibition games, the team has struggled to produce results with the man advantage. The solution lies in dedicated practice and time spent ironing out the kinks to restore cohesion and effectiveness to this crucial aspect of their game. Confidence, timing, and success are the ingredients for a hot power play, and the Penguins have the talent to turn things around once they find their groove.
2: Completing the Malkin Line
With Jake Guentzel returning to practice, there is hope that his absence will be shorter than initially predicted. However, until his full return, the Penguins face a dilemma in completing their top lines. Rickard Rakell and Bryan Rust have solidified their spots alongside Sidney Crosby, leaving the question of who will join Evgeni Malkin and Reilly Smith on the second line. Players like Alex Nylander and Radim Zohorna have shown promise during camp, but the final decision is still up in the air. This choice could have significant implications for the opening day roster.
3: The Battle for a Bottom-Six Spot
Due to Jeff Carter’s contractual obligations and the Penguins’ cap constraints, he is locked into the lineup to start the season. This situation has led to a competition for a bottom-six forward position. Lars Eller, Drew O’Connor, and Matt Nieto have all factored into the bottom-six plans, with the addition of players like Vinnie Hinostroza and Austin Wagner. The arrival of Jansen Harkins further complicates the picture. While this role may not be make-or-break for the team’s performance, it’s one of the few wide-open battles in the Penguins’ camp, and the final decision is anyone’s guess.
4: Depth Defense and the Waiver Wire
The Penguins’ defensive depth has been a topic of discussion, particularly with the early waiving of Ty Smith. As things stand, Chad Ruhwedel appears to be the sixth defenseman, with Mark Friedman or Ryan Shea as the extra for the start of the season. However, intriguing depth defenders from other teams, such as Lucas Carlsson and Jacob Bernard-Docker, have hit the waiver wire. The Penguins have shown a willingness to make waiver claims, as demonstrated by their recent acquisition of Jansen Harkins. With three available NHL contracts before reaching the limit of 50, the team might continue to explore options on waivers to bolster their blue line.
As the Pittsburgh Penguins prepare for the upcoming season, these four questions loom large: revitalizing the power play, finalizing the Malkin line, determining the bottom-six lineup, and addressing depth defense. With a week left to make crucial decisions, the Penguins are in a state of anticipation and uncertainty, but also with a sense of excitement as they look to build a roster that can contend in the NHL.
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