It’s time again for the NHL playoffs, and the Penguins are considered by many to be the scariest potential opponent.
But as Pittsburgh fans have learned from recent history, nothing is a given.
Today I make some Penguins predictions that are easy, and others that could be considered far-fetched.
Sidney Crosby Will Be Dominant
This is the first of the predictions that could be considered “easy”.
Crosby is going to be as motivated as he has ever been in his career. He knows as well as anyone that one championship in the “Crosby era” is a significant disappointment.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 3, 2016
Most people know the numbers that Crosby has put up since the coaching change, but the real test will be in the playoffs. Number 87 has disappeared in the postseason in the past, but considering all of the circumstances following this team, it is unlikely that anyone will wonder where he is this year.
Phil Kessel Will Lead the NHL in Goals
Honestly nobody has been able to accurately predict anything about Kessel for his entire career, and the 2016 playoffs are no different.
The enigmatic winger seems to be in a good place right now, and is comfortable with his linemates. There is no reason to believe that he will slow down, and will likely step up his game as the stakes get higher.
Literally no one on the Penguins is having more fun than Phil Kessel. Guy is amped. I don’t blame him.
— Beth (@pghgirl15222) April 6, 2016
I wouldn’t be surprised to see a hat trick as some point during the playoffs.
Nick Bonino’s Play Will Level Off
Unlike many people, I am not ready to anoint Bonino as the best thing since sliced bread.
He has played well in Evgeni Malkin’s absence, but his history shows nothing that indicates that he can maintain this pace.
Per “War On Ice” Bonino has a career 5-on-5 Corsi For % of 44.26 and a Relative Corsi of -3.88 in 30 playoff games. These are not good possession numbers.
Matt Cullen Will Be a Huge Factor
Again, not a stretch, but it must be stated.
Cullen has been a big part of the Penguins success all season, especially during their play down the stretch.
Mike Sullivan called Matt Cullen “an extension of our coaching staff.” last night. Said he’s been an asset to the team all around.
— Jesse Marshall (@jmarshfof) April 8, 2016
His strong play and experience will be as valuable as any member of the team. Cullen has drawn comparison to the Bill Guerin of the 2009 team, and I could not agree more.
The Wilkes-Barre “Kids” Will Not Be Overwhelmed
Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Matt Murray, and Tom Kühnhackl have had every opportunity to fold under the pressure of playing in the NHL, and suiting up alongside some of the biggest names in the game. But they haven’t. Why would they start now?
These kids aren’t in the NHL by default, they have earned their spots on the roster. Each of them are skilled guys who hustle every moment on the ice. They will have an impact on the Penguins’ playoff run, and I’m guessing that it will be a positive one.
Kris Letang Will Win the Playoff MVP Award
So here is where I’m stretching my predictions a bit as this particular one assumes quite a bit.
Letang is force at both ends of the ice. To go very far in the playoffs, the Penguins will need him to be at his best offensively and defensively.
Source: Drew Doughty has 49 points this season. Kris Letang has 50 points since Christmas.
— Mike Darnay (@MikeDarnay) April 3, 2016
I’m betting all of my chips that if the Penguins make it to the finals, Letang goes home with the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Chris Kunitz Will Wear Down
Kunitz still has lots of skill left, and he plays with Crosby. He will have plenty of big moments, and put up some points, but he is no spring chicken. He is going to slow down.
As I write this, the Penguins haven’t released their lineup for the final game against the Flyers, but it would do Kunitz well to let him rest. He is still a valuable player, and Pittsburgh needs him as fresh as possible.
Let’s Get Silly
Quick hit predictions.
- The Penguins won’t miss Bobby Farnham or Tom Sestito.
- Fans will blame Ben Lovejoy for every goal…even if he isn’t on the ice.
- If Marc-Andre Fleury allows a bad goal, fans will call for Murray. If Murray allows a bad goal they will call for Fleury. If they both allow a bad goal…they still won’t call for Jeff Zatkoff.
- Malkin will return and ruin team chemistry. (I don’t need a punchline here, it’s already silly enough.)
Penguins beat the Stars in six games during one of the highest scoring NHL Finals ever.
I asked Penguins’ fans on Twitter to send me their thoughts as the playoffs begin.
@Greg_Thornberry Time to play each game as though it’s their last & not just expecting to win by turning up.
— Rob Howe (@BritPen) April 9, 2016
@Greg_Thornberry drop Isles in 5, Caps in 6, avenge loss 20 yrs ago, take FLA in 4. Hunt Ducks in exciting 6 game series. Raise Cup in ANA
— Mike Bowman (@CoachMikeBowman) April 9, 2016
@Greg_Thornberry gotta rid the ghosts of playoff pasts, get the injured rangers 1st beat them and continue the winning way.
— pelino (@pelino79) April 9, 2016
Until next time.
Greg is a Pittsburgh Penguins writer for ‘The Hockey Writers’.
He is a Pittsburgh area native who has written for multiple Penguins news and opinion sites. In addition to hockey writing, he is also an experienced YouTube creator.
Greg started with THW in 2015 as a Blue Jackets writer, and spent time as a Fantasy Hockey analyst.