It was understandable a few weeks ago, when most of the Pittsburgh Penguins were in town before training camp and their informal workouts had an unmistakable spark. At least once, after what seemed like a rigorous set of drills, they players left the ice only to summon the Zamboni to freshen the ice so they could go back out for a scrimmage.
The first few days of camp, which featured a tournament of scrimmages, carried the same sense of high energy — a lot of hop in everyone’s step.
The thing is, it hasn’t worn off. Training camp and the preseason can be draining as it unfolds in any sport at any level, but going into their penultimate exhibition game Wednesday night, the Penguins have maintained their up-tempo pace and high spirits.
“After the long summer, everyone’s rested and ready to go,” winger Jake Guentzel said after the morning skate at PPG Paints Arena. “We’re all eager to get going. You can just see it in practice – everyone’s ready to go.”
The long summer, of course, came after a loss to Washington in the second round of the playoffs. In 2016 and 2017 the Penguins had short summers because they played into June and won back-to-back Stanley Cups.
“Anytime you don’t win, you get that much more hungry and that much more excited to come back for the next season,” winger Bryan Rust said. “I think everyone was kind of getting sick of skating and practicing (informally). I think we’re all just getting excited for games.”
A year ago, maybe from fatigue or thinking ahead to a possible threepeat, the Penguins were a little slow out of the gate. They started 0-1-1 with an overtime loss to St. Louis on the night they raised their latest banner, then got whipped at Chicago 10-1 en route to a mediocre 20-18-3 first half.
They don’t envision that happening again.
“I think guys are more energized now,” winger Carl Hagelin said. “No one’s looking too far ahead now. We’re just going to go out and play these two exhibition games we have left and then get ready for Oct. 4.”
Oct. 4 is the season opener against at home against rival and defending champion Washington.
Hagelin, one of the NHL’s fleetest skaters, pointed out that having the extra hop this fall dovetails nicely with the Penguins’ style.
“As a team that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said of going high-octane. “We want to be a team that uses our speed to create offense, but also to kind of disrupt the other team’s offense. If we want to be successful, we need to bring a lot of energy and a lot of speed.”