Crosby and Pens seek another ring

Team on the cusp of another Stanley Cup playoff run

Brian Carr, West Hills Center Staff

After a disappointing end to the 2017-18 season in which the Pittsburgh Penguins lost to the eventual Cup-winning arch rival Washington Capitals in the second round of the playoffs, the Pens are on a mission to regain the Cup. With the core still intact, as well as the additions of veterans Jack Johnson and Matt Cullen, expectations were risen coming into the 2018-19 campaign. In fact, the very first game of the season the Pens got a bit of revenge on the Caps by defeating them in overtime. The fans and pundits alike seen it as a step in the right direction.

After that first game, the season took a turn for the worse when very sloppy defensive play, inconsistency from the forwards, and a tendency to give up shorthanded goals had them looking up to the rest of the league from the bottom of the standings at one point. Fans were frustrated. General Manager Jim Rutherford was furious. He knew something needed to be done to spark his talented team, and he set out to do just that. He acquired forward Tanner Pearson and defenseman Marcus Pettersson in separate deals for Carl Hagelin and Daniel Sprong. That seemed to help, but the biggest reason why the Pens turned their season around apparently is goaltending. Matt Murray struggled mightily at the beginning of the season, but has since rebounded to become nothing short of spectacular. The same can be said for Casey DeSmith, who earned himself a nice three-year contract extension as a vote of confidence from the brass.

Jake Guentzel vowed to be more consistent this year, and that he has. With over 20 goals already, he is on pace for a 40 goal campaign. Evgeni Malkin has struggled, but is still registering hefty point totals. Kris Letang has rebounded from a poor year last season to having an all-star season in which he is a candidate for the Norris Trophy. It would be only the second time in Penguins history where the best defensemen in the league could call Pittsburgh the city in which they are employed with. Sidney Crosby has been… well, Sidney Crosby. He has perhaps been getting better with age, like a fine wine. He is leading the Penguins in scoring, and playing that determined, grinding 200-foot game in which he is known for. Phil Kessel has scored like he is used to, and has been picking it up in the play-making department.

The team has had a lot of hat tricks this season, which makes for a lot less hats on the heads of Pens fans around town. The team still would like to get more production from Derick Brassard, and with the trade deadline looming, he is a candidate to either be dealt or will turn his season around.
On the defensive side of the ice, the youngster Pettersson has helped the Pens lower their goals against average. He, along with veteran Brian Dumoulin continue to be heavy plus players in the plus-minus category. They play basic, positional defense, and are difficult to beat one-on-one.

Against the Western Conference teams, the Pens are the best in the league. Their power play along with their penalty kill has been very strong all season. They continue to play a very entertaining brand of hockey has emphasizes skill and speed. They are one of the most popular sports franchises in the world today.

The Pens are trending in the right direction, and it will be very interesting to see what the team will do come trade-deadline time. A few tweaks here and there, and they could win the franchises 6th Stanley Cup. That›s quite an accomplishment for a team that was all but forced to relocate a couple times over their history. The team will go as far as Sid wants to take them, and it looks like he is more determined than perhaps ever before to take them right back up to the top where they rightfully belong.