The season opener against the Buffalo Sabres caused some Pittsburgh Penguins fans to be nervous about the teams’ future. The Penguins lost to the Sabres, 3-1, with a noticeably less-than-spectacular performance plagued with similar mistakes that haunted the team in the 2018-19 season. However, the season opener is in the past, and right now, the Penguins have had some success that deserves to be recognized.
The Penguins’ record currently sits at 7-5-0 after playing 12 games and these wins illustrate the teams’ talent and potential. At one point in time, the Penguins had a five-game winning streak while having numerous key players injured, leaving them to rely on new, younger talent.
The chemistry of the team has seen some success, and a few highlights deserve to be mentioned.
Crosby’s Top Line Success and Leadership
The accolades start with the captain himself, Sidney Crosby. He currently holds the most points on the team — 14 points in 12 games. His participation will continue to grow but right now it’s great to see him taking pucks deep and generating chances for his teammates.
Crosby has seen great success with Dominik Simon and Jake Guentzel on the top line, as well. Guentzel and Crosby are successful together, but adding Simon to the lineup created a well-oiled machine that creates plays, takes chances, and produces results.
It’s important to observe this line to see how three forwards can score goals and make plays happen. The Crosby-Guentzel-Simon line has all the elements to help the team succeed and Crosby has been a playmaker and leader for the team.
Tanev Living up to His Potential
Brandon Tanev’s presence on the Penguins team was one giant question mark at the beginning of the season. After signing a massive six-year deal with the Penguins during the free-agent signing season, many people doubted his worth and whether he would contribute positively to the team. After the first 12 games of the season, he has started to prove his worth.
Tanev has scored three goals and tallied six points so far. He has continuously contributed to the teams’ speed and grittiness; he is a player with the potential to make a great impact on the team. Whether he’ll be a top goalscorer is yet to be determined, but that does not mean that he has not played his part.
Jim Rutherford, the general manager, wanted to sign Tanev because he was a hard player to play against with great depth and a diverse style of play. Tanev has helped the team offensively, defensively, while drawing important penalties. Rutherford intended for him to be a game-changer for the team and so far he is on the road to fulfilling the general manager’s vision.
Letang’s Healthy and Consistent Performance
Kris Letang has been performing at a whole new level lately. A few years ago, his health was the main concern; he had a neck injury that took him out of play for a chunk of the 2016-17 season, which eventually led to surgery. The 2018-19 season brought on a healthier Letang, but the team faced systematic issues that prevented their success as a whole (i.e. chemistry issues and poor defensive strategy). It seemed as if he and the team could not completely sync to perform at the optimal level.
Letang’s 2018-19 season resulted in 56 points in 65 games, which was his second best of his career. Right now, he has marked 10 points in 12 games, showing that he is en route to another productive and consistent season. His performance is not quite unprecedented — he has been a top defenseman in the league for a while now — but the issue at hand has been consistency.
Letang’s health and consistency will greatly impact his productivity on the team. It’s important that he can keep up this style of play for a long time; looking at how he has played so far, I think it’s almost safe to say he will play this way for a long time and he will be an essential component on the team.
Now, these assumptions and predictions say absolutely nothing about the rest of the season. We have yet to meet any large milestones or benchmarks to measure the absolute success of the Penguins. However, being over 10 games in and watching the team adjust, face challenges, and develop a new style of play is most certainly an enjoyable sight.
No success is guaranteed from the first 12 games of the season, but it’s safe to say players have been contributing and working hard thus far; it’s possible that this trend will continue long into the 2019-20 season.
Casey Montana is a Pittsburgh native and hockey fan. A recent graduate from Mercyhurst University with a bachelor’s degree in both Communications and Political Science, Casey focused her studies on Sports Business and Media. She started working with the Mercyhurst athletic department as the Strategic Communications Intern and then established a passion for hockey operations, media relations, and sports writing.