For the cynical, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ recent past is not only prologue but a guaranteed predictor. The scars of a muted effort in a four-game sweep by the New York Islanders in the 2019 playoffs and a flatline performance in the Qualifying Round against the Montreal Canadiens last season are absolute signs the Penguins are inadequate.
The Penguins do have issues.
Injuries have decimated their roster all season, again. The penalty kill is giving out power-play goals like loaves and fishes. And the Penguins lost to the Buffalo Sabres.
That’s it. Stop humanity. All hope is lost.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have not yet punched their ticket to the 2021 NHL playoffs, but they are nearly certain to get there. They may very well lose in Round One, not because they’re unworthy to be there but because they will face a Stanley Cup contender in Round One. And, if they get there, Round Two.
But there are a pair of crucial and key differences between this Penguins team and the dirt napping iterations of seasons past that should provide real optimism for what comes next.