After a quick and embarrassing exit to the playoffs last season, the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans are itching to get the 2019-20 season underway. With 13 consecutive playoff appearances behind them, the Penguins will have to navigate the 82-game schedule to make it 14 in a row. This is the first time through in the last five seasons that fans aren’t exactly sure what to make of the team this season.
With four games at home to start the season, including seven of the first nine, the Penguins are primed for a fast start. The end of the season is going to be hotly contested as 14 of the last 16 games are against Metropolitan Division teams, making the playoff push just that much more intense. The Penguins will also have 16 national televised games on the NBC family of networks. If you can’t catch all 82 games this season, here are five games that you will want to be sure to carve out time for.
Note: The following five games are listed in the order they appear on the schedule.
Opening Night: Oct. 3 vs. Sabres
Who doesn’t love opening night? The first puck drop will mark 170 days since the last competitive hockey game the Penguins have played. That is 169 days too long for some. The line combinations that head coach Mike Sullivan will employ have been a talking point all offseason and on Oct. 3, we will find out which forwards and defenders are paired together.
This game will also mark the regular-season debuts for Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Tanev, and Dominik Kahun. How long will it take those three to endear themselves among the Penguin faithful? They will need to hit the ground running and a good game against the Buffalo Sabres would go a long way. The home opener will allow fans to put the previous season’s disappointing end in the rearview mirror and focus on the 2019-20 season.
The Battle of Pennsylvania: Oct. 29 vs. Flyers
The first of four meetings between these two bitter rivals, the Penguins host the Philadelphia Flyers to open up the season series. Before their six-game series back in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Emmy Award-winning play-by-play commentator Mike “Doc” Emrick said on 93.7 The Fan that the series would be “a blood boiler.” Their regular-season matchups aren’t much different either. These two met in the 2019 Stadium Series in Philadelphia where both Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin were injured within seconds of each other. The anticipation for this matchup will be high as it is the first big rivalry matchup of the season for the Penguins.
It is going to be interesting to see how these two teams have started the year. This game could be a catalyst to jolt them, or it could completely derail either of these teams and send them into a downward spiral. This will be the first look the Penguins get against Kevin Hayes as a Flyer. Hayes has faced the Penguins previously as a member of the New York Rangers but this will be a different level of intensity. This will also give fans another chance to see Matt Murray vs Carter Hart in a battle of young netminders who are both poised to be the franchises goalies for the foreseeable future. Don’t miss this first Battle of Pennsylvania.
Forgetting the Past: Nov. 7 @ Islanders
The first matchup against a team that eliminates you the previous season is always a little more hyped. But against a team that beat you in all three phases of the game en route to a four-game sweep who also happens to be a divisional opponent and rival? Now we are talking. The Barclays Center will play host to this first of four regular-season meetings between the two rivals and the Penguins will certainly want to forget the past and make a statement.
These teams have had some memorable matchups in the past, including the infamous “Fight Night” game on Feb. 11, 2011, where 346 penalty minutes were handed out. The Penguins and New York Islanders split the season series in 2018-19 and there is no reason to think a similar result could happen. Can the Penguins adjust to the physical style that the Islanders employed late in the season and during the playoffs? Can their defense find ways to move the puck safely out of the zone? This first matchup against the Islanders will go a long way to seeing just how good this Penguins team is.
Jack Hughes: Nov. 22, 2019 vs. Devils
While this isn’t the first time these two teams will meet each other, this is the first time Penguins fans can see Jack Hughes in PPG Paints Arena. The New Jersey Devils have significantly upgraded their roster with the additions of P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, and number one overall pick Hughes. The Devils won the 2019 Draft Lottery, considered many to be the Jack Hughes sweepstakes (sound familiar Pens fans?). The Devils selected the American and possibly changed the course of their franchise’s future.
The Devils finished last in the Metropolitan Division last season but had a 3-1 record against the Penguins. In the past, it has seemed the Penguins have taken certain teams lightly, the Devils being one of those. With a revamped roster, the Devils will be better than last season and the Penguins will need to be prepared for an improved Devils team. But for the fans, seeing Jack Hughes in person will be a real treat. The 18-year-old American is going to be the face of the NHL for many years to come.
Sid vs. Ovi: Feb. 2, 2020 @ Capitals
Penguins. Capitals. Crosby. Ovechkin. Those four words should get any hockey fan excited. This rivalry is full of passion and hatred for one another. A rivalry that started in the 1990s that has escalated into arguably the best current rivalry in all of hockey, the Penguins and Washington Capitals always have high-intensity matchups. This one should be no different. Their first meeting of four will be on a Sunday afternoon on NHL on NBC. Josh Yohe of The Athletic asked Sidney Crosby a question about the Penguins-Capitals rivalry and how it become Crosby vs. Ovechkin as of late.
I don’t like turning into me and him.source – ‘YOHE: Sidney Crosby on Alex Ovechkin, their relationship and the rivalry that matters most’ – The Athletic – Josh Yohe – 03/12/2019
Yes, there is more to this series than just Crosby and Ovechkin but it’s hard to look past two of the biggest names in hockey over the last 15 years. Both teams added pieces here and there but no major additions were added. The players know the stakes of this rivalry and have to wait until February to kick it off. The players will be ready. The fans will be ready. The hockey world will be ready.
While the games above are noteworthy and highly anticipated, the other 77 are just as important. You can find the entire schedule on Penguins.com and let me know what games you are looking forward to!