Our Pittsburgh Penguins 2021-22 Preview is a part of our 2021-22 NHL Team Preview Series. Starting September 9th, we have covered one team per day in the leadup to the 2021-22 season. After a crazy busy offseason with a ton of player movement we need something to help summarize what happened and give an outlook of the impact on each team. Make sure to check back each day for the next team in the list!
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Last season the Pittsburgh Penguins finished first in the NHL East division. The amount of injuries they had during the season made this even more impressive. They finished with a 37-16-3 record and 77 points. Tying Washington for points, but winning the tie-breaker.
They did very well offensively with 196 goals for, good for second in the league, and their powerplay was great at 23.7% effective. This powerplay was fourth in the league. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel were each over a point per game with 62 and 57 points. Crosby played 55 games and Guentzel 55. Evgeni Malkin missed over 20 games during the shortened season, but still managed to get 28 points. The team picked up the slack in his absence, with players like Bryan Rust, Jared McCann and Kasperi Kapanen chipping in offensively. Kris Letang had a great offensive season too, hitting 45 points in 55 games. This team could score.
They were better than average but not great defensively. They allowed 156 goals, which places them at 13th in the league. Their penalty kill was quite terrible at only 77.4% effective. This was bottom 5 in the league at 27th overall. Clearly they had some struggles, but were able to win games due to Sidney Crosby doing Sidney Crosby things.
At the trade deadline the team acquired veteran Jeff Carter from the LA Kings. Carter had an extra year left on his deal so is still with the team into next season, which is good because he looked great. In 14 games he secured 11 points.
In net the team relied upon Tristan Jarry as the starter. He had a slow start but settled in and had himself an alright year with a 0.909 save percentage and a 2.75 goals against average in 38 starts. Not amazing, but solid in a tough division. In playoffs he faltered, seeing his numbers drop to 0.888 and 3.18 in 6 games. He had a really poor turnover in overtime as well.
With that goaltending stat line, it should be no surprise that the Penguins were eliminated in the first round by the New York Islanders in a 6 game series. It was disappointing, but the Islanders are one of the best teams in the league recently so no shame in losing to them.
This offseason Pittsburgh has opted to stay pretty quiet. They have not done a whole lot roster movement wise. They opted to give Jarry another chance as starter, and they flipped McCann to Toronto in an expansion draft move. They were scared to lose him for nothing so made a trade and got a prospect that was originally a Pittsburgh pick to begin with, Filip Hallander. Instead Seattle chose Brandon Tanev from the team. Tanev will be missed but he was highly paid for a bottom six guy and had a full no move clause, which really could have aged poorly.
- Danton Heinen
- Brock McGinn
- Dominik Simon
- Jared McCann
- Brandon Tanev
- Cody Ceci
- Mark Jankowski
Forwards is usually solid for the Penguins, but to start the year off it appears they will be without both Crosby and Malkin. This is obviously extremely alarming. To be without the first two centres is going to be rough. Crosby is looking to return sooner than Malkin. The team captain should be back about a week or two into the season, but Malkin is expected to miss at least the first two months again. The Russian is in his last contracted year with the team, and at 35 it looks likes injuries are really starting to become a perennial issue. It’s going to be a storyline to keep an eye on. Will he re-sign or go somewhere else? Russia?
These two pillars of the team being out means that guys have to move up in the lineup. Right now it looks like the centre depth is Jeff Carter, Teddy Blueger, Evan Rodrigues, Sam Lafferty and Anthony Angello. The team also has veteran Brian Boyle on a professional tryout at the moment so he could maybe sneak in and provide some depth in the bottom six at centre, or allow someone else to slide over into the middle. Either way, the team is going to be in a bind to start the year until Crosby comes back.
On wing the team is stable hough. Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust have both been great for the team year in year out. Jason Zucker had some injury issues last season and only played in 38 games. He only managed 18 points in his first “full” season with the team and simply wasn’t good enough. With Crosby and Malkin out he’s going to have to step up in a big way to help drive some offense.
In the bottom six the team has added Danton Heinen and Brock McGinn to replace the loss of Brandon Tanev. I actually like these moves and think both will bring some solid hard work to the forward group. McGinn has hit 30 points before so it’s possible he moves up and down the lineup in Pittsburgh too.
In an interesting move the team re-signed Dominik Simon. He’s been on the team before and he’s played with Crosby. He went to Calgary last year and didn’t have a single point in 11 games. If he’s reunited with Crosby or even just plays all the games and develops chemistry it’s possible he finds his game and provides some secondary scoring.
Once the two key centremen return the team should be set, but they’ve got to hope everyone can step up into bigger roles and they can find a way to score still.
Defense should be better than last season if not for the sole reason Cody Ceci is gone.
The top pairing is the ever-steady Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang. These two veterans should be a great pairing but they’ve both got to stay healthy.
Second unit looks like Mike Matheson and John Marino. I had my doubts about Matheson joining the team, but he’s actually passed the eye test pretty well so far. For John Marino I feel bad for Oilers fans because him not signing there must have hurt. He’s developed quite well into a two way defenseman. He’s still got some work to do, but he should be a consistent piece of the defensive core for a while.
The third unit could be a solid set of young defensemen in Marcus Petterson and Pierre-Olivier Joseph. Joseph only appeared in 16 games last year but he is one of the best bright young players the team has right now. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do in a full season.
For depth the team has Matt Bartkowksi, Taylor Fedun, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Friedman, and Juuso Riikola available.
It looks like it’s still Tristan Jarry’s net. His regular season numbers were okay, but his playoff ones were not. Casey DeSmith will be the backup once again and could be looking to take the spot of Jarry. His numbers from last season were pretty decent, in 20 appearances DeSmith had a 0.912 save percentage and a 2.54 goals against average. If Jarry struggles I think the leash might be shorter this season and DeSmith will jump in.
Pittsburgh Penguins 2021-22 Prediction
As tough as it is for me to say the Penguins are still a good team, they are. They’ll struggle out of the gate with both Crosby and Malkin out, but if they can at least play .500 hockey until they return, they should be safe. The defense will be solid and the offense is very similar to last season. They’ve replaced the lost players from free agency and expansion with similar talent levels from within or signings. The real question for the team is in the net. Does Jarry step forward and secure his spot as the guy, or does another young goalie bump the starter and steal his spot? It happened to Fleury and Murray, why not Jarry? I think the Penguins should enter playoffs, either with a divisional spot or a wild card entrance, however, I can’t see them winning the Metro Division.
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