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Ask PHN: Questions Turn Dark, Penguins Fans Uneasy with Stars

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Kris Letang

Late Friday night, I did my occasional Ask Bud Moonshine schtick on Twitter. One thing became quickly and abundantly clear: Pittsburgh Penguins fans aren’t just nervous. They’re apprehensive and already a wee bit angry over the Penguins construction.

A pair of season-opening losses to the Philadelphia Flyers and Gritty’s dance moves could make anyone angry.

Thus far, the clear theme is to take the wrath out on the star players and Penguins GM Jim Rutherford for not trading them in the past two offseasons. Sidney Crosby is exempt, of course.

For newbs, the Ask Bud Moonshine gimmick harkens back to my radio days on 93.7 the Fan when my Twitter handle was indeed Bud Moonshine, and the story of drinking moonshine at a country music festival clung to me like pants I owned before the pandemic. No, I don’t particularly like twangy country music or the personal hygiene which music festivals foster, but sometimes a good time trumps my rigid hangups.

Now to the questions, including one from the Pittsburgh Mayor. (Since the Mayor is running for a third term, I should also answer his eventual Republican opponent…if there are any left in Pittsburgh).

A: My Penguins lines are simple.

Zucker-Crosby-Kapanen

Guentzel-Malkin-Rust

McCann-Jankowski-Tanev

Lafferty-Blueger-Rodrigues

Why: 1) I like Guentzel with Malkin, at least until I don’t. And I’ve not seen nearly enough chemistry between Malkin and Zucker, dating back to last season. The Guentzel-Malkin pairing rocketed Malkin into the NHL scoring leaders last season. 2) I think Crosby would fit Zucker’s game well and vice-versa. 3) The third line has been awesome. Don’t fix what isn’t broken. 4) I’ve seen sparks from Rodrigues. I think he and Blueger could be a gnatty duo with jam from Lafferty.

A: This was an absolute no-brainer. Since the Pittsburgh Penguins have never won a Stanley Cup on home ice, by far the best, wildest, most unbelievable, and fun game in Pittsburgh Penguins history was the 10-7 win in Game 5 of the 1989 Patrick Division Final. Mario Lemieux scored five goals. Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ron Hextall angrily chased Robby Brown (who recalled the memory for us a few months ago) because he windmilled after a goal. Then, Tim Kerr had a hat trick to make the game nail-bitingly close in the third period before the Penguins scored No. 10.

I was there the first time, and it will forever be the craziest game I’ve ever seen.

A: It’s not been a good start for the Penguins, and no one should be happy, but let’s not overlook the situation. The Penguins have new faces and new lines. The Philadelphia Flyers had one new player in their lineup. And, for whatever reason, the Penguins stars are all out of sorts, too.

The stars, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang, will figure it out quickly. The Penguins’ problems are two: Settling into a rhythm with activating D and getting a good defensive effort.

Enjoy the journey — don’t wait for the result to please you. Hockey IS the journey. I’m enjoying Mark Jankowski’s second chance, Mike Matheson’s whatever it is, and the Penguins trying to put the pieces together.

 

A: I’m checking with Edmonton GM Ken Holland. In full disclosure, he didn’t say “No.” (He muttered a few expletives and asked how I got his home number, but that wasn’t a no).

A: Given the circumstances, I just don’t see Sullivan in trouble unless the team revolts. Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has a rebuild-retool plan in place, and Sullivan is a great coach. Truth? I think you’d see a star player traded first, but that’s my guess, not something I’ve been told.

A: I don’t think so, because now the Penguins have a Mike Matheson “issue.” They have to help him rebuild his game, and taking him out of the lineup is more dangerous. As much as they love P-O Joseph (and I still don’t get the Matheson trade for that reason), I think young Mr. Joseph will have to wait a little while longer for his NHL debut.

A: It comes down to trust and comfort. New coaches are gambling with house money. Young players are as fresh, new, and exciting to them as they are us. However, after the honeymoon, it’s about winning. ALL about winning. And when your employment rests on those decisions, one tends to play it safe.

However, Sullivan gave me a great answer when I asked about young players having a real chance to make the lineup out of training camp. I didn’t intend the question to be accusatory, but he offered a good defense: John Marino.

The Pittsburgh Penguins moved heaven and earth, including taking a loss on a defenseman they were quite fond of (Erik Gudbranson) to make room. With a longer camp, perhaps Joseph would have had a better chance.

Until next time, true believers…

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Rick Backus
Rick Backus (@doorkicker)
10 months ago

Enjoyed that. Thank you.

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