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Penguins Begin Quest For 3rd Stanley Cup In 4 Seasons

Pens kick off the 2018-19 season against the defending Cup champs tonight at home

October 04, 2018 - 1:07 pm

Related: Bryan Rust Is Ready To Go

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - For the third straight year the Stanley Cup Champions will open up PPG Paints Arena. Unfortunately this year it’s the visiting Washington Capitals.

While the Penguins were unceremoniously eliminated from the playoffs by the Caps this past spring, expectations are still high for a possible third Stanley Cup in four seasons.

Some of the anchors and reporters that cover the Pens closely for The Fan give their thoughts on the season ahead.

Eric Hagman:

I won’t predict a third Stanley Cup in four seasons for the Penguins, but I fully expect them to be in the conversation come springtime.  This is a very talented team, but it’s an aging team in what is becoming a younger and younger league. 

One key is  how well  Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Letang and Hornqvist hold up over the season.   Add in Brassard, Hagelin, Cullen and Johnson and half of the Penguins currently projected 18 skaters are 30 or older.   

Younger players such as Guentzel, Maatta, Rust, Dumoulin and Schultz are important pieces, but they remain complimentary players to the stars.  

The other key is goaltender Matt Murray, who by his own admission did not have a good 2017-18 season.  Murray seems energized and confident, but can he stay healthy and will his teammates give him more defensive support than they did at times last season?   

The Penguins look to be a 100 point-plus regular season team with the talent to go deep into the playoffs.  Once there, who knows?

Jeff Hathhorn:

Injuries-the action that would derail the Pens season because if this team stays healthy, a sixth Stanley Cup is there to grab. 

The team has depth up the middle, a time for Derick Brassard to assimilate into the Pens scheme and an extra center in Matt Cullen as part of an interesting fourth line with Riley Sheahan and Daniel Sprong. 

Matt Murray seems determined and free of some of the off-ice issues that affected him last year.  The defense should be solid with a full year of health for Kris Letang and a potential for a Jack Johnson rebirth. 

Even if the defense falters, the offense should be able to make up in that area.  They may not have the best record in the East, but will have home-ice for the first round of the playoffs and then it’s back to the first word-injuries.

Shelby Cassesse:

The Penguins are nearly identical to the team they were last year, minus the additions of Jack Johnson and Matt Cullen and the most notable departure of Conor Sheary.

The big difference this year is the team was able to take advantage of a full offseason for the first time since 2015. The players pretty overwhelmingly said they benefitted from the longer offseason and felt more refreshed than they have in a long time.

This team is also one of the deepest we’ve seen, especially at forward. It’s possible this could be one of the better scoring teams we’ve seen in Pittsburgh in recent years.

To me, the wild card is the defensive personnel. They were arguably the weak spot for the Penguins last year, and Jack Johnson didn’t put the numbers up with Columbus last season.

I’m not buying in that he’s going to revive the blue line just yet. However, if the defensemen can be a bit more consistent than they were last year and the team truly is as refreshed as they say they are, there’s certainly reason to believe the Penguins can make another deep playoff run and potentially win their third Stanley Cup in four years. 

Josh Rowntree:

An extended offseason will be massively helpful to the Penguins. They admitted as much minutes after coming off the ice after the playoff loss to Washington in the spring.

 Kris Letang may benefit the most, after spending last offseason recovering from neck surgery. I expect a much more respectable season from Letang. 

Any time you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, you’re a contender. Phil Kessel appears to be in very good shape, too.

If Pittsburgh gets consistent depth scoring from Jake Guentzel, Derek Brassard and Patric Hornqvist, they’ll be a tough matchup each night. If he can stay healthy, Matt Murray will return to form after a difficult season.

I expect the Penguins to finish second behind Washington in the Metropolitan division, reach the Eastern Conference Final and fall to Tampa Bay.

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