Another preseason has come and gone in the NHL. It is always both exciting and interesting to see what management experiments with in regards to their teams. Generally, fans can always spot a few strengths and weaknesses when it comes to their favorite teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins are no different. These are Pittsburgh’s strengths and weaknesses going into the regular season.
Every team wants a strong offense for obvious reasons. When it comes to the Penguins, they seem to always have a plethora of talent. Even without future hall-of-fame centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the team tends to do fairly well. Newcomer Danton Heinen has made quite the impact and rightfully earned his spot on the first line with Jeff Carter. These two, along with Bryan Rust, have incredible chemistry and will prove to be a true offensive threat.
Rust and Heinen haven’t been the only strong wingers. Kasperi Kapanen has had an insane preseason. His performance shows that he is poised to have a breakout season in the NHL. Jason Zucker, although struggling throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh, is also ready for a bounce-back season. The top two lines, once at full health, will be some of the best in the league.
Depth can always make or break a team. There’s no point in having incredible first and second lines if the third and fourth can’t do anything. This isn’t the case for the Penguins. Teddy Blueger has proved time and time again that he can lead the checking line. For their first game, it’s likely that Dominik Simon and Brock McGinn will be on his wings.
Although the fourth line might be filled with new talent, it doesn’t mean that it’ll be bad. If the Penguins sign Brian Boyle off of his professional tryout contract, he’ll be centering the fourth line. With him will be Sam Lafferty and, ideally, Drew O’Connor. O’Connor has had an insane preseason, and it would be genuinely surprising if he isn’t on the opening night roster.
This has been a debate during the 2021 playoffs and all throughout the offseason regarding the strength of Pittsburgh’s goaltending, specifically Tristan Jarry. He had an abysmal postseason, and was regretfully one of the main reasons for Pittsburgh’s defeat in the first round at the hands of the New York Islanders. With a new goalie coach, Andy Chiodo, some thought he may improve. However, it may not be so.
Jarry’s glove side has been his Achilles’ heel. It seemed that any shot there would go in. Pittsburgh’s last preseason game was no exception. Every single goal that the Columbus Blue Jackets scored was on Jarry’s glove side. If teams figure out that they can score simply by aiming there, the team is in some serious trouble. This needs to change soon or else the Penguins will have trouble stopping the opposition.
Weakness: Second Line Center
With Malkin out, the team has had to experiment with the center of the second line. Last game, it was Evan Rodrigues. This could be debatable, but Rodrigues has played horrendously. There were numerous occasions where he made a blind pass, leading to turnovers and, on multiple occasions, breakaways. The organization obviously sees something in him, but his position at center should be reconsidered.
An option that could be enticing would be to allow someone in the system to get some more NHL time. An obvious candidate would be Radim Zohorna. Zohorna was recently sent back down the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL, but it is more than likely fans will see him in the NHL sooner rather than later. Letting Zohorna get some more time under his belt would only benefit his development.
Every team has their strengths and weaknesses. After all, the preseason is where management can evaluate those strengths and weaknesses, and then adjust the roster accordingly. In regard to the center position on the second line, it’s not a huge weakness but it’s still present. However, Jarry’s glove side needs some considerable work. If both of these components are addressed, this team could be a formidable opponent.
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