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2018-2019 NHL Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

A team that has 2 Stanley Cups in the last 3 years with a chip on their shoulder?

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Six Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Twenty-Fifth up are the Pittsburgh Penguins who are the Stanley Cup Favorites in my book. Two cups in the last three years and three in the last 10 years.


2017 – 2018 NHL Stats:

NHL Standings: 10th
Goals for Rank: 4th
Goals against Rank: 20th
PP Rank: 12th
PK Rank: 17th

Projected 2018-2019 NHL Stats

NHL Standings: 6th
Eastern Conference Standings: 3rd
Metropolitan Division Standings: 1st
Coach: Mike Sullivan (with Pittsburgh 130-66-22 regular season, 38-23 playoffs)
(200-122-15-45 regular season; 41-27 all time)

Pittsburgh Penguins v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Overview:

The Penguins had a really good thing going, they kept winning cups, cross division rival Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals were losing repeatedly to the Penguins but all of that officially changed last year. The Capitals got both past the 2nd round AND beat the Penguins in the process which appeared to be the confidence boost they needed to get them over the edge and clinching a cup after seasons of coming in as a favorite only to get knocked out early. Pittsburgh comes into this season just as strong and dangerous as the last few seasons but now they have an added motivation to win another cup. They hold the longest active record for consecutive playoff berths with 12. They have one of the three best top nine in the league starting with Sidney Crosby and working through a depth of lines to Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Derick Brassard, Daniel Sprong and Bryan Rust. It’s no fluke that they have the best power play in the league. On defense, they are top ten, a healthy Kris Letang is a dangerous puck moving defenseman, Brian Dumoulin is an up and coming strong addition, Olli Maatta is positionally strong and ferocious in front of the net, Just Schultz was a steal as a strong puck possession player. Jack Johnson as your 5th/6th defense adds more experience (as if they needed any) giving a very well rounded support to the team. I know it’s not this clean but there is surely a coincidence with Marc-Andre Fleury leaving Pittsburgh for Las Vegas through the expansion draft and the Golden Knights being 8th best in goals against while Pittsburgh was 20th. It wasn’t the shot total, the difference there was 7th best vs. 10th best. Matt Murray was limited to 49 games last year due to a concussion posting a 2.92 GAA and a .907 sv % while the team also utilized Casey DeSmith, Tristan Jarry and Antti Niemi.

Major Additions:

None

Major Subtractions:

Conor Sheary

Prospects and Picks:

-Daniel Sprong. Taken 46th overall in the 2015 draft, Daniel worked his way up from the QMJHL to the AHL posting 65 points in 65 games last year for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He played in just 8 games posting a respectable 2 goals and 1 assist with Pittsburgh last year. He should be a full time player on the top three lines this year and is certainly a valuable asset for the team to add. He has very quick hands and a sharp release that is deceptive to goalies.

-Zachary Aston-Reese. Signed as an undrafted free agent, Zachary made a name for himself at Northeastern University scoring 63 points in 38 games his senior year. He didn’t stop there scoring another 37 in the AHL over the next year and a half across 51 games. The team called him up for 16 games last year where he put up 6 points. There is a strong case for him to make the team on the 3rd/4th lines this year. He has a good combination of smarts and determination that make him a tough player for opposing defenses. If he can continue to work and mature, he could be a top 6 player for this team in a year or two.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:

-Matt Murray. On a team that is this strong you already know of the Crosby’s, Malkins, Kessel’s, and Letangs. Matt has a chance to rebound to above average GAA, SV% and most importantly, quite a few wins. He had a 2.41 GAA and .923 Sv% in 2016-2017 season making him a top ten goalie, not to mention his 32 wins and 4 shutouts. If he can replicate those numbers he can be a deep player that gives you top ten fantasy numbers.

Cap Situation:

$72MM Spent; $2M in Cap room; 17 players signed; average team age 28.

Poll

Who leads the Penguins in scoring this year?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Kessel
    (3 votes)
  • 40%
    Crosby
    (6 votes)
  • 40%
    Malkin
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    Other
    (0 votes)
15 votes total Vote Now