Check out some initial reactions from the first Pittsburgh Penguins from the 2022-23 season’s games.
Overall, it was mostly a success with five out of six potential points, two wins, and an overtime loss against the Montreal Canadiens. The last game was a tough loss, allowing a two-goal lead in the third half to overpower a bad team, but there were still plenty of positives at the start of the season.
Some early ideas and things that have popped up so far….
Evgeni Malkin looks great
He scored just two goals for the Penguins in Monday’s loss in Montreal and already has three goals, four total points, and 17 shots on target in the three games. He looks like a man on a mission so far and seems to get along with his buddies Brian Rost and Jason Zucker.
I’ve made this remark before, but most of his 5 on 5 struggles a year ago came from the fact that his buddies couldn’t finish. His equal goalscoring remained as good as ever, while his nursing numbers were the area where they slipped. This speaks to his colleagues more than anything about him.
Rust and Zucker are a huge upgrade over Kasperi Kapanen and Danton Heinen and as long as he stays healthy I think we’ll live for a great year from two owners.
The “shoot first” mentality is the most encouraging thing so far. If he keeps putting pucks on the net, he will score a lot of goals.
The death penalty was an early weakness
That’s been a big force at times over the past few years, but they’ve gotten off to a slow start this season having already conceded four goals in all three games. Overall, the unit is only 8 vs 12 so far. I wouldn’t panic too much at this point because it’s still early days, but it’s been one of the obvious flaws so far. And it’s not necessarily a goal-orientation issue because they’ve given up quite a bit of shots, scoring chances and expected goals. The staff and track record are there to believe this will straighten out, but if you have to identify one weakness yet, this is it.
Jeff Petrie and Marcus Peterson were strong together
Petrie had a rough night back in Montreal in the penalty division (the third-period intervention call was a folly), but the pairing was very productive during the first three matches.
They’ve played 5-5 minutes more than any other duo on the team, started the vast majority of their turnovers in the defensive zone, and still post their best possession numbers on the team. When they’re on the ice, the penguins attempt 55 percent of all shot attempts, have 69 percent expected goals, 65 percent scoring chances, and 75 percent high-risk scoring chances. This is, again, with the start of an overwhelming share of the defensive zone. They are pushing the play in the right direction.
Petrie has been an important addition this off-season and gives the Penguins a much-needed strong right-wing presence in their second defensive duo behind Chris Letang. Aside from Monday’s penalty shootout, it was exactly that and gives them a great defensive duo.
Jason Zucker has a great chance to come back
Zucker’s problem in Pittsburgh was mostly injuries and exaggerated expectations. When he was healthy, I really liked his game, and his productions were not far from what he had been doing for most of his career in Minnesota.
He won’t score 30 or 35 goals, but he’ll make his share of chances and if he can get a bit of a positive dip to average on his shot, he could still be a 20-25 goal scorer, especially on a streak with Malkin and Brian Rust. Early on, I loved his game this season and he seems to be on track for a great payback season. It was a smart move to not give up an asset to part with his contract this off season. He can still help and he only has a year left on his contract anyway.
Some quick random thoughts and notes
Brian Dumoulin didn’t look good in Montreal’s equalizer and win on Monday, but the Chris Letang-Dumoulin duo have a high-risk 14-1 and 3-0 advantage over their first three games while playing 5 on 5.
– Sidney Crosby and Jake Genzel look as good as ever.
The fourth line is the weak link so far. It wasn’t bad by any means, but this is a specific area that could use an upgrade.
The goalkeeper was great. This is always the ultimate wild card, especially after the way the past two years in the Stanley Cup playoffs have gone.