Nearly a year ago, there was a different mind set in Pittsburgh. Yet, here we are today. The Penguins came into the 2015-16 season with out an identity, and what seemed like a lack of commitment.
Surely there was tension in the air, and every game it surely got worse. The turn around happened at Christmas time, and I think we all know how the rest of the story went. The summer was full of celebration and anticipation for the next season, but something has clouded every fan’s mind out there.
Can they repeat?
Nearly the whole team is intact, which is a great foundation for chasing the cup once again. Mike Sullivan has set the tone early for the team, and it’s showing. Tristan Jarry has had a phenomenal preseason, which helps the city of Pittsburgh not to worry about the goalie position in years to come. All is good in the Steel City right?
Unfortunately, the Penguins have lost their young gun Matt Murray to a thumb injury that occurred during the World Cup. Monday, it was announced that the Penguins have lost their reigning Stanley Cup Champion, Conn Smythe winner, World Cup Champion, and World Cup MVP Sidney Crosby. The list of achievements has been piling on for Sid, for which it has been an unforgettable 2016 after having a horrible start to last season.
So are the Penguins in trouble?
Without Murray or Crosby, will the Pens get off to a slow start yet again?
Well the statistics are in our favor. Going back to when Crosby had his last concussion, Sid had missed 101 games dating back to the 2010-11 season and the 2011-12 season. In each of those seasons, the Penguins finished with over 100 points in the standings and also placed second in the Eastern Conference in each season.
Evgeni Malkin stepped up to the plate and became a Russian monster, having a combined 137 points in both seasons. With Mike Sullivan behind the bench, we should feel confident that the Penguins can get the job done without some key players.
One thing that has certainly been overlooked is how much better the Metro Division is getting. Ray Shero seems to be doing wonders in New Jersey, with additions like Taylor Hall. The Flyers look to have a bounce back season after getting knocked out of the first round, and would love to take the Pens off the throne. The Rangers seem to have taken a step backwards, but can always be a thorn in the Penguins. The Blue Jackets and Hurricanes are truly huge question marks; with young talent along side some veteran presence, anything can happen.
Lastly, the Washington Capitals. The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins open their season off against the reigning President Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals. The Penguins will have their hands full this season with the whole division, let alone the whole league, and the Capitals seem to be the ones who want to strike vengeance.
It will be a long, hard fought season yet again for the Pens. Trade rumors have swirled about Fleury for months, will he be moved to pick up a late season asset? Will the injury plague derail the team? Or will speed, discipline, and the never give up attitude bring the Pens back to celebrating down by the river in 2017?
For now, all we can hope for is that the team takes each game as its own, and becomes a force to be reckoned with in the NHL.