The Pittsburgh Penguins look to rebound after a longer summer than they all wanted. After watching their rival Washington Capitals lift the Stanley Cup, the Penguins are motivated to get back to the top and win their third Cup in four years.
As we enter the 2018-2019 season, the Penguins are as deep as ever at the center position. They are always one of the deepest in the league because of the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but this season, it really seems like they are deeper than they could ever be.
Sidney Crosby – 82 GP, 29 goals, 60 assists, 89 points, EVEN +/-
The Penguins’ captain is as motivated as ever. He has entered training camp with “something to prove.” Who knows what else Sidney Crosby has left to prove, since he’s accomplished just about everything a hockey player can achieve.
Crosby doesn’t want to settle though. He wants to win. That’s always the story with Crosby.
The last couple seasons have left some doubt in people’s minds that he can compete to win another Art Ross trophy, but if there were a season for him to do it, this season would be the season. He’s more rested than he’s been for over two years.
Crosby would rather lift another Stanley Cup than win any individual trophy. Even though he’s north of age 30 now, he’s still the best player in the world. He’s still just as dangerous, and if he stays healthy again, the Penguins always have a chance with him at the helm.
Evgeni Malkin – 78 GP, 42 goals, 56 assists, 98 points, +16 +/-
Malkin had a great season in 2017 that flew under the radar. After all, he did finish 4th in points last season.
But that doesn’t seem like it’s enough for Geno.
He’s been very outspoken about how much better he wants to be. Like Crosby, Malkin is ultra-competitive and settling for losing in the 2nd round of the playoffs to one if your biggest rivals isn’t going to cut it for the 32 year-old Russian star.
Malkin will probably be in the most consistent line in 2018, centering a line between Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin. All three players compliment each other’s games insanely well. And with both Malkin and Kessel finishing with 90+ points a season ago, there’d be no reason to keep them all together again.
Derick Brassard – 72 GP, 21 goals, 25 assists, 46 points, EVEN +/-
When the Penguins acquired Derick Brassard last season at the trade deadline, there was a similar feeling to the season in that brought in Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow. Unfortunately, the end of the season played out the same: getting bounced in the playoffs.
Brassard struggled to produce points after coming to Pittsburgh, only scoring three goals and tallying five assists in 14 games played. Some thought it could be because he couldn’t adapt to playing on the third line, but it was mostly because he wasn’t quite healthy.
Things are different this season. Brassard, aside from a bad illness at the start of training camp, is fully healthy and ready to fly. He’s looked very impressive in preseason, scoring four points in two preseason games, including a pair of goals in the preseason finale.
Expect a different Derick Brassard than what you saw briefly in 2017-2018. He’s going to make this Penguins team lethal down the middle.
Riley Sheahan – 81 GP, 11 goals, 21 assists, 32 points, +4 +/-
Riley Sheahan will be centering the fourth line for the Penguins. He’s been dealing with a lower body injury for the most of the preseason, but was able to play in the finale.
Sheahan spent most of last season as the third line center, and was very successful at it. He was bumped down to the fourth line after the Penguins acquired Brassard.
Sheahan is the Penguins’ best in the faceoff circle and arguably their best penalty killer. His value on the fourth line can’t be overstated enough. He is a big reason the Penguins are so deep down the middle.