Coaches have not yet publicly shared the image of their puzzle. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ corner pieces are in place. We know where Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and even Jeff Petry will line up. In the subsequent roster assembly, we’ll find out if head coach Mike Sullivan can see the schooner in the 3D picture.
The last line is a Kevin Smith reference in honor of Clerks III. If you don’t get it, you have homework this weekend.
Late Friday night, we put out the bat signal and immediately got the good questions (and none seemed to be fueled by alcohol). The questions surrounding the Penguins are legitimate and yet without official answers.
But Sullivan will fling open the door to training camp on Thursday and begin giving answers. More importantly, Sullivan will begin allowing the players to give him the answers.
Without further ado or discussion, if independent contracts on the Death Star deserved their fate, we present the Pittsburgh Penguins Q&A.
What’s your three D pairs for the Pens? I have to admit I’m intrigued by the length of a Pettersson-Petry 2nd pair.
— Robert Fisher (@cuzzinfish) September 17, 2022
ANSWER: Until he proves otherwise, Brian Dumoulin plays with Letang. Full stop. From there, chemistry and balancing skills will play a role. Will P.O Joseph earn a role? What about Ty Smith, who was acquired in the John Marino trade? Mark Friedman and Chad Ruhwedel could also find themselves with a plate of press box nachos.
So, here are my pairings:
Marcus Pettersson should be a nice complement to the all-around Petry, a quick and fluid skater. Our Montreal colleagues report that Petry has excellent gap control and lateral movement. Pettersson can play to his stay-at-home self without forcing offense.
Jan Rutta will be a solid anchor on the third pairing. He, too, is an all-round defenseman but more of a defensive presence. He can skate well enough, but his forte is the defensive zone and taking care of the net-front. A skating, offensively inclined defender will pair well with him. Can that be Joseph? I think he will get a good chance to prove it. If he doesn’t show that hop through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, Friedman has shown he can be a nice option capable of solid minutes.
Friedman has also shown he can lose his head and take dumb penalties. I think Friedman wins the battle, but I’m not betting the farm on it.
Bottom 6 projection – right now?
— bill peduto (@billpeduto) September 17, 2022
Bill! The city misses you. Anyhoo…
The player that people are overlooking is Danton Heinen. He marked 18 goals and 33 points in 76 games. His game is not overly assertive, nor is it robust. He’s a third-line scorer. Pair him with Jeff Carter and, probably, Kasperi Kapanen.
I don’t get the Josh Archibald hate. The analytics crowd has again paired with the Penguins Twitterverse to create a scarecrow believed to be bad at hockey. He’s not an All-Star, but he had value as a scrappy fourth-liner and PK guy.
I don’t need to sell you on Teddy Blueger and Brock McGinn. That’s a pretty good fourth line.
The more I hear about Ryan Poehling, the more I think 13th forward or WBS Penguins; he’s very talented but can struggle to play the game at full speed.
Does Kapanen make a good change this year? I’m pulling for him.
— Grace Mitchell (@graciemitchell) September 17, 2022
In blunt honesty, that answer lies solely with Kapanen. He has all of the god-given talents to be a special player. He must get his nose dirty more often, and stop, stop, stop with the half-wall pull-up. Death, taxes, and Kapanen leading the rush but stopping at the top of the circle.
I don’t know what comes next for Kapanen. He has only one 20-goal season. Given the talented teams he’s been a part of and the talented linemates he’s been given, he should have a few.
Penguins GM Ron Hextall gave Kapanen a two-year deal this summer. One would think Sullivan had some input there. I can’t fathom the second year being included if Sullivan were fed up.
So, Kapanen will get every opportunity to right the wrongs of last season, but his might be the one contract that haunts the Penguins in the short term.
Do the Pens win a series this year?
— TomKat (@Tomkatf14) September 17, 2022
Yes. Especially if they finish in the top three of the Metro.
Zucker 50 games. Over/under?
— RJ (@RHPRandy) September 17, 2022
Under. When players start to have issues, they usually don’t change course. I hope I’m very wrong for his and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ sake. He’s a good human who deserves better than the brutal luck he’s endured. Truthfully, even a bad human doesn’t deserve the luck Zucker has endured.