Tag Archives: Bryan Rust

Unsung Heroes

Overtime, Game 7; these are the games as hockey fans we love. Thursday night, the Penguins defeated the Senators 3-2 in double overtime to clinch their bid to the Stanley Cup Finals vs the Nashville Predators. The game winning goal coming from 37-year-old Chris Kunitz, which was his second goal of the night. This entire playoff, and regular season has been filled with unsung heroes. Yes, we have the three-headed monster in Malkin, Crosby, and Kessel leading the way in playoff points. But there are a few guys pulling some of their own weight. Names that stand out are Jake Guentzel, Chris Kunitz, Bryan Rust, Olli Maatta, and Brian Dumoulin.

 

Jake Guentzel- 2016-17 Regular Season– 40 GP | 16 G | 17 A       2016-17 Playoffs– 19 GP | 9 G | 7 A

What an amazing rookie campaign Jake has put together. Those who watched Jake play in WBS before being called up knew the type of impact he could have in the NHL, and what an impact he has made. Some may ask why he made this list of surprise players these playoffs, but I don’t think anyone expected a player with 40 NHL games to be in the top 5 of playoff scoring. Not to mention 3 GWG this postseason.

Image result for jake guentzel playoffs

Chris Kunitz- 2016-17 Regular Season- 71 GP | 9 G | 20 A |         2016-17 Playoffs- 14 GP| 2 G| 3 A |     

Chris Kunitz, what a guy. This is a player that Penguins fans have wanted to be dealt out of town for the last three years at least, and I am guilty of criticizing him as well. But with Kuntiz you know what type of player you are going to get. He’s the type of guy to battle in front of the net, finish his checks, and hey, even score goals when reunited with Crosby. Kuntiz has scored the most important goal of these playoffs so far (2OT ECF) so how could he not be a hero?

Image result for chris kunitz goal

Bryan Rust- 2016-17 Regular Season- 40 GP | 12 G | 4 A |            2016-17 Playoffs- 17 GP | 6 A | 1 A |

Rust is a player that really emerged last season when the Pens were faced with injuries and he made a similar impact that Guentzel is making this year. Rust is another guy that will finish his hit and grind in front of the net, but also comes up with some very timely goals. This post season, Rust has 2 GWG those goals being Game 5 vs CBJ, and game 7 vs Washington. Rust plays big in big games, so keep an eye out for him the Stanley Cup Finals.

Image result for bryan rust playoffs

Olli Maatta2016-17 Regular Season- 55 GP| 1 G | 6 A |              2016-17 Playoffs19 GP | 2 G | 5 A |

Maatta has been criticized time and time again, and granted he has not been the player the Penguins expected, he has held his own. Some unfortunate injuries have slowed Maatta’s growth, but minor things such as foot speed seem to be an issue for him. To Maatta’s credit he has played well this season, especially vs the Sens. Scoring two goals in as many games, and one being a GWG in the 7-0 victory, Maatta seems to be finding his way as of late.

 Image result for olli maatta 2017

Honorable Mention: Brian Dumoulin- Dumo gets my honorable mention for this list. Next to Ian Cole, he may be the best defensive defenseman the Pens have. Logging 20+ minutes in almost every playoff game, he is faced with the task of shutting down teams’ top offensive lines. He is a valuable player to this Pens roster that often goes under the radar.

Image result for brian dumoulin playoff

This Penguins team is filled with superstars as we all know, but there are a ton of depth/role players that are just as important as Crosby or Malkin are. Role players play a key part in winning teams, and the Penguins have built their team using high end role guys. They played a huge part in the 2016 Stanley Cup Run, and will again be a key factor in the 2017 Stanley Cup run.

Series Analysis: Pens Top Caps in 7

Wow.  The Penguins did it again.

And should we even really be shocked any more?

On the 1 year anniversary of the Nick Bonino overtime winner against the Capitals last year in game 6, the Penguins once again beat their division rival to move on to the next round.  Although this time, it took 7 games.  Going into the game, many Penguins fans thought that the Caps were going to end it.  I knew that if any team was going to pull off this win, it would be the Penguins, but I really didn’t think they actually would.

Well until they did, of course.

Marc-Andre Fleury pitched a shutout, which adds to this story-book ending of the series, as the Penguins knock the Capitals out of the playoffs with a 2-0 win in Washington, and now hold a 9-1 lead in the series against the Caps.

Let’s make this clear: A Penguins’ team that was clearly concerned about losing Kris Letang for 1 game against the Capitals last year just took out the President’s Trophy winners without him.

And Matt Murray

And a banged up D-core…

Oh yeah, and they played almost 2 games without Conor Sheary and Sidney Crosby!

Not to mention that this was a Capitals team that remained healthy all year, were healthy in the playoffs, dealt for Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, and were once again the clear favorites to finally lift Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Until they ran into the Penguins.  Again.

The Penguins were outplayed for the majority of this series, but they found ways to win hockey games, 4 out of 7 to be exact, against an extremely talented hockey team.  So, how did the Penguins pull it off, despite blowing a 3-1 series lead and having to go back to Washington for a do-or-die game 7?  Here is my series analysis, which includes 5 main reasons as to why the Penguins were able to emerge victorious, once again:

Marc-Andre Fleury > Braden Holtby

The Capitals needed Braden Holtby to be…well…Braden Holtby if they were going to beat the Penguins in these 2017 playoffs.  In fact, they simply needed Holtby to be the better goaltender between him and Fleury.  Unfortunately, for the Capitals, this was not the case.

The Penguins generated some decent chances throughout the series, but not once outshot the Capitals in a single game.  Holtby did not have to stop a ton of pucks, so one would think that he would have had the edge over Fleury.

Well, he may have.  But the stats indicate otherwise.

Holtby had an abysmal .887 save percentage (17 goals on 151 shots), compared to his .925 save percentage in the regular season, good enough for the former Vezina winner to be yet another nominee to win the trophy for the 2016-17 year as the NHL’s top goaltender. However, it was the Penguins’ goaltender, Fleury, that looked like the Vezina Trophy nominee in this series.

Fleury kept his hot play from round 1 going into round 2, and put up a .921 save percentage (18 goals on 227 shots) in this series, including a shutout in game 7.   Although a .921 save percentage is quite good, I still do not think it even comes close to describing how well he played in this series and how many absolutely unbelievable stops he made.  One, in particular, comes to mind:

Without their top defenseman Letang, the Penguins will need him to continue to be their best player if they want a chance at moving on.  Fleury seems up to the task, as he holds a .927 save percentage in these playoffs.  If he can keep up these kind of stats behind a dangerous Penguins’ offense that leads the NHL in playoff scoring…they just might have a chance.

Penguins’ Stars > Capitals’ Stars

Simply put, throughout the series, the Penguins star players stepped up to the plate.  The Capitals’ stars didn’t, especially when they needed it most in game 7.

Evgeny Kuznetsov was, in my opinion, the Capitals’ best player this series.  He needed to be a factor if the Capitals were to win this series, but he should not have been their best player…

Alexander Ovechkin had a few goals, sure, but none of them were game-changers.  He made mistakes in his defensive zone that cost his team goals more often than not, and played in a 3rd line in the final 3 games of the series, receiving less ice time than 6 other Capitals’ forwards in game 7.

Nick Backstrom had his moments, but didn’t really stick out at all to me.

TJ Oshie was largely just kind of there for this series.  He generated chances and was often causing mayhem in front of the net, but he did not contribute much offensively.

Justin Williams, Mr. Game 7 himself, was “out-Mr.-Game-7-ed” by Penguins’ forward Bryan Rust, and was largely invisible for the entire series.

John Carlson was…wait, who is he?

On the Penguins side, Crosby was about as good as it gets when he was healthy. Evgeni Malkin didn’t play his best hockey throughout the series but generated good chances, put up decent stats, and stepped up when Sid was out. Phil Kessel scored a few important goals for the Pens and continued to impress in the playoffs. Jake Guentzel continued his production and still leads the NHL playoffs in goal scoring. Nick Bonino came in clutch again in game 1 to give the Penguins the win.  And somehow, someway, Rust scored again and leaves Washington, DC with another elimination game game-winning goal in his back pocket.

Simply put: the Penguins’ big named guys outplayed the Capitals’ big named guys when it mattered most.  Period.

Quick Strike Ability

For the majority of this series, the Penguins were badly outplayed.  Ironically, one of their better games, game 3, was one of the games they would lose.  Regardless, the Penguins truly were not the better team for probably 80% of this series.

They were outshot 227-151, and often times the Capitals were able to have multiple shifts in a game where they would have the Penguins completely pinned in their zone.  The Penguins were not able to do this often to the Capitals.  And yet, they were able to win the series.

I think this was mainly due to the Penguins quick strike ability.  It seemed as though many of the Penguins goals came after an extended shift for Washington when it seemed like they were going to get a goal.  All of the sudden, someone has a breakaway or the Penguins have a 3 on 2 the other way and score.

The Penguins shooting percentage was 11.26% in this series, which is incredibly high.  I really do not think Holtby played an awful series.  His stats were not good at all, but I honestly think the Penguins simply scored at will when they needed to and generated high-danger scoring chances and capitalized, unlike the Caps.

The Penguins Are In Their Heads

The Penguins own a 9-1 series lead over the Washington Capitals, and Ovechkin has yet to see an Eastern Conference Final.  Oh, and every Stanley Cup the Penguins’ have won in the Crosby era involve the Penguins going through Washington.

Need I say more?

Mike Sullivan

The Penguins, somehow, took a 3-1 series lead into game 5, but it certainly did not feel like a 3-1 series lead.  The Penguins even took a 2-1 lead into the 3rd period of game 5, before allowing 3 goals in the 3rd and losing 4-2.  The Penguins then came back home for a game 6 with another chance to wipe out the Capitals, and were just straight up man-handled.  The Caps put up 5 straight goals to open the scoring, and the Pens would lose 5-2 as Guentzel and Malkin put up meaningless tallies in the games’ waning minutes.

The series then shifted to Washington for game 7, and it just screamed 2010 Eastern Conference Finals against the Canadiens all over again.  The Penguins had the 3-1 lead coming off of a Cup win the previous year, but just became too fatigued and did not have the drive, heart, or energy to finish it off.

Except the guy behind the bench isn’t Michel Therrien or Dan Bylsma.

Sullivan and his coaching staff should receive a ton of credit for this game 7 win and series win.  The Penguins, after being dominated at home in embarrassing fashion, had a practice that was almost entirely X’s and O’s, as stated by multiple sites/sources.  The coaching staff knew what they needed to adjust against Washington, and clearly, they pushed the right buttons, as the 2-0 final game 7 score indicated.  Sullivan said after the game that this was the best game for the Penguins this postseason, and it’s hard to disagree.

This team felt the pressure of game 7, but they fed off of it, rather than let it get to them like this team had in the past, and I attribute that to Mike Sullivan.  He has changed this team and their mindset, and makes it extremely difficult to ever count these Penguins out.

Sullivan is now 6-0 in playoff series as the Penguins’ head coach, and you can bet he wants to be 8-0 after this year.

He’s not done, and these Penguins aren’t done either…

Bring it on, Ottawa.

Penguins Pass The Adversity Test

It’s not all gonna be rainbows and sunny days out there ladies and gentleman.

While it may have looked like that so far being up 3-0, it’s still definitely not over until that 4th win has been had. It was nice though for the Penguins to face a little adversity in how they came about winning game 3 in Columbus.

The playoffs are horrendously rough at times, if you don’t think so just take a look at Zach Wewrenki’s face after he blocked Phil Kessel’s shot.

Games 1 and 2 weren’t a breeze but they for sure weren’t the toughest battles that have been fought out there on the ice. There will be tougher paths ahead, sometimes when the plans been to nice for you, its tough to find your game again after you get punched in the mouth. Finally faced with the slightest of adversity, the Pens showed that they know how to surpass that and not tail into negatives.

That opening punch happened 11 seconds into the game. The Penguins tied it up shortly after: That’s adversity.

Down 3-1 after the 1st with a rocking building abundantly against them, they were all square at 3 one the 2nd period horn sounded. That’s passing a test of adversity.

Even when grabbing the lead an unfortunate bounce that should have been a stoppage play lead to the Blue Jackets tying it up did they crumble? No, in fact the youngest of talent on this team lead them through.

The start of the series was wonderful but that’s not how playoff hockey goes, it’s just not. Pittsburgh wasn’t behind in the score until 3 games, but the Penguins now know that any lead is able to come back.

Not every matchup will go there way, people will struggle and puck luck won’t be in their corner all the time. You gotta learn how to roll with the punches and overcome difficult flurries, the Pens showed that last game and I think that won’t be the last we see their resiliency.

The Penguins can gut it out anywhere and get the garbage dirty goals. Though they’re a team that can make highlights, not every goal will be sexy. Numerous guys will need to be the hero 1 night make a positive impact, we viewed this with a Jake Guentzel hat trick.

Willingness to win and put in all you have leads to the victory of attrition, I’m talking Marc-Andre Fluery making head saves and Bryan Rust continuing playoff acceleration of the largest level. Everyone player on the roster has it in them.

Test 1 of adversity was passed but were only on the opening page, there is more. Now they to show a killer mentality and put away Columbus now. The Pens have their hands around the opponent’s throats now you just have to crush it and send them on their way. Like Kevin Nealon’s character talking to Happy Gilmore, “you’re almost there, now just put the ball in it’s home”. The Penguins could always use rest, how sweep would it be to get that by winning now in the 4th game.

A Depth Decision

Any team who wins a Stanley Cup will do it with depth. Going back on previous Stanley Cup winners over the past ten years, most had the depth to outwork the other team beyond their first two lines.

The beautiful thing about depth is that you don’t need to have star players filling up three lines. Hell, the Penguins proved that last year more predominantly than any of the preceding Cup champions in recent memory.

The Pens rolled a third line consisting of ‘HBK’, or Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel. Obviously Kessel is one of the more premier scoring talents throughout the NHL. But Hagelin and Bonino are just mere role players. Hagelin doesn’t have elite scoring, but he uses his speed to beat teams. Bonino is a guy who wins faceoffs at an exceptional rate and blocks shots at will but still can also thrive if you temper expectations for 10-15 goals out of him.

The fourth line had a 39 year old center who still plays like the prime days of his rather lengthy career in Matt Cullen.

Having depth can never be a bad thing, until it can. And in the Penguins case, I guess it really isn’t even a bad thing.

All things considered with how the Penguins are playing, they face a nightly decision whether to play a guy like Tom Sestito against the tougher, more physical teams because the Penguins aren’t going to outmuscle any team in the NHL.

Or turn to a guy like Tom Kuhnhackl who prides himself on playing a defensive game. He’s nothing too flashy, but he represents something the Penguins lack without him in the lineup. The first forward you want in your defensive zone, but the last one you’d think could contribute in the offensive zone.

Soon, depth becomes a real issue for the Penguins. With Conor Sheary now back from injury, he regained his spot in the lineup pushing out both Sestito and Kuhnhackl. The latter have both proven they could be capable fourth line NHL’ers.

The Penguins were once believed to have a farm system that couldn’t replenish their NHL team. They won a Cup because of that same farm system.

It’s not like Matt Murray, Bryan Rust, and Scott Wilson grew off a tree.

Guys like Jake Guentzel, who is in the AHL, and David Warsofsky, who is a consistent healthy scratch, are NHL caliber players. Warsofsky has proven he can log NHL minutes on a team’s blue line. Whether that be for Pittsburgh or Ray Shero in New Jersey (*sigh*), he’s done it.

Guentzel has a hell of a shot and the Penguins could truthfully be employing him right now. But there just isn’t room.

And what about that Sprong guy that everyone is so hyped about? You know, the one who played about five minutes a game under Mike Johnston? For lord’s sake, Tom Sestito logs more minutes under Mike Sullivan.

But Sprong was the Penguins second round pick last year and as we saw against the Ottawa Senators when he scored on Craig Anderson, his release and shot is just lethal.

The Pens have a surplus of young talent. But what do they do with it?

They can’t trade it away because it would then insert another NHL ready player into the lineup and knock out yet another talented youngster, something the Penguins already have to deal with. They can’t leave it sitting in the AHL because what good is that going to do letting an NHL ready talent tear apart mediocre AHL goaltending?

What will be done remains to be seen. Mike Sullivan and Jim Rutherford have a plan. They always do. I’m not worried about how it will shake out, I just want to see what they plan to do and how they plan to do it.

Crosby, Penguins Making The Most Out of Concussion Situation

When the news first came out that Sidney Crosby had once again been diagnosed with a concussion after a few years of successfully avoiding injuries that had once threatened to put a complete stop to the superstar’s career, it sent a chill down the spines of not only Penguins fans but the entire hockey world. With Crosby about to enter the new NHL season right after playing some of the best hockey of his career during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and World Cup of Hockey, the news that he was suddenly on the shelf was not pleasant to hear.

Fortunately, since then, it has become clear that the concussion is minor, let alone looking to be much less of a problem than the concussions he dealt with in the past. Once the initial smoke had cleared and the situation had cooled, both Crosby and the Penguins had to focus on their separate jobs until recovery was over. They each have had to make the most out of the situation and figure out a way to work it to their advantage.

For Crosby, the fact that this newest concussion appears to be very minor has meant that he has not put a stop to training and is preparing as much as he can for the moment when he can rejoin the team. He has taken the ice for several consecutive days, and from the short clips of footage that have surfaced of his brief practices, I have to say he’s looking to be in pretty good form. I mean, look at the on-ice greeting he gave to the Pens’ newest pickup, goalie Mike Condon:

Damn. That shot’s looking pretty good.

It occurs to me that maybe Crosby can only be benefiting from all this extra time to practice and prepare for his new Penguins season to start. As it is, the entire Pens squad had a shorter offseason than the rest of the league, as is always the case for the Stanley Cup Champions. Their season ran all the way until almost mid-June, and the players got a very short time off to relax before they had to resume training. This offseason was even shorter for some players thanks to the World Cup of Hockey 2016, in which six Penguins players including Crosby participated. Here’s where Crosby individually really had less rest than his teammates. Of all the Penguins representatives at the World Cup, only Crosby reached the final, meaning that the rest of his teammates got to end their action in the tournament and focus on Penguins hockey earlier than he did. And he was pretty involved in Canada’s run to being tournament champions, too – he finished with more points than any other player, was center of the best line in the entire tournament, and ended up receiving MVP honors.

The Penguins knew he needed his rest when he returned to Pittsburgh, too. They gave him a short little break before he rejoined the team on the ice. He was set to only play in the Pens’ final preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the game was a day after the practice which resulted in the concussion, meaning that Crosby sat out because he wasn’t feeling well and ended up being diagnosed a few days later.

So with such a tiring and not very restful offseason, with Crosby having so little time to turn his focus to Penguins hockey and train for a bid at repeating as Stanley Cup Champions, maybe you can look at it as a good thing that he now has a few days to make sure he’s in good form and ready to lead his team. Sid will obviously be aware that his recovery isn’t something to be rushed, so while he takes his time waiting to get cleared to play again, fans can be confident that he is doing everything within his current capabilities to be ready from the get go.

Meanwhile, for the rest of the Penguins, while it’s certainly not fun to be missing your captain to start the season, the team has quickly figured out that missing Crosby provides a good opportunity to evaluate the depth of the roster and to see whether the team still has a quality that arguably saved their season last year and contributed to a turnaround that resulted in the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup – the ability to overcome any obstacles or adversity that came their way. Both of these factors were key to the Penguins’ most recent Stanley Cup. They proved that they had a roster with such good depth that their fourth forward line was good enough to compete with other teams’ first or second lines. Overcoming adversity was pretty much the storyline of the Penguins’ season. Injuries to top players happen, and when they do, teams are closely watched so people can evaluate how strong they can be in still surviving. 

The Pens don’t want to be the Montreal Canadiens, who had a promising start to last season before going on a freefall through the standings once star MVP goalie Carey Price went down. So far, the Penguins have avoided such comparisons. Their season is off to a pretty strong 2-0-0 start despite missing three valuable assets in Crosby, forward Bryan Rust, and goalie Matt Murray. The Pens have turned these unfortunate injuries into chances to incorporate other players into the regular season roster. In Rust’s absence, Scott Wilson is proving to be a potential elite NHL forward and is finding good success on a line with Evgeni Malkin. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who lost his starting job to Murray last season after sustaining concussions of his own, has seized the opportunity to win back the position of the Pens’ #1 goalie and is impressing already with his stellar play to start the season. The roster as a whole is clicking and proving they are a formidable foe even without the presence of Sidney Crosby, leaving people to wonder what they could be once 87 does return.

So while most people would probably prefer Sidney Crosby hadn’t been injured at all, take a deep breath. There is a way to look at the bright side of things, and Sid and the Pens seem to have things worked out reasonably well.

Penguins Preseason Q&A

Hello, Pens fans! We are back for the 2016-’17 season and it’s going to be a great title defense. Without further ado, here are your questions answered below:

I don’t think resting veterans is a terrible idea. Now if we are talking Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin level players, no.

Guys like Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen surely should get some days off to stay fresh. The Penguins are going to have a ton of depth this season and a lot of them will be young guys.

Guys like Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Scott Wilson, and potentially Oskar Sundqvist may be the ones who will have to rotate in and out of the lineup on a consistent basis due to everyone being healthy now. I’d love to see some of these guys mix in so I’m hoping there will be some rest for veteran guys. 

LW- Chris Kreider, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, James van Riemsdyk

C- Tyler Johnson, Nick Bjugstad, Paul Stastny, Ryan Kesler, Derek Stepan

RW- Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Blake Wheeler, Joe Pavelski

D- Dustin Byfuglien, John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Suter

G- Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, Corey Schneider

The USA team was limited with the whole Team North America BS. Obviously, eligible players such as Kessel and Bishop were glaring options that were left untaken.

The Penguins actually have a better prospect system than the eye catches. Outside of Pittsburgh, hockey fans don’t realize the potential this group has.

In no specific order, I’d go: Daniel Sprong, Jake Guentzel, Tristan Jarry, Teddy Blueger, Ethan Prow.

As you’ll realize, I stayed with guys who have very little to no NHL experience.

Sprong has the potential to be a prolific scorer for years to come. He revived little playing time under Mike Johnston, which didn’t help his development so he went back to juniors for a season. He’ll likely begin his season in the AHL when he returns from injury.

Guentzel is a natural center but given the team’s depth down the middle and their intent to resign Nick Bonino, it’s likely that next year’s, and likely year’s to come after that, center core will be Crosby, Malkin, Bonino, and Sundqvist. So Sullivan has said Guentzel will be a left wing. It’s a position the Penguins may need to fill in upcoming seasons and Guentzel will be part of that audition.

It’s never a bad thing to have three NHL capable goaltenders, especially if two of them are still on entry level deals. The Penguins have that with Tristan Jarry. Jarry has always been projected to be a solid goalie and his preseason performance says no different. He’ll back up Flower to start the season, but what will become of that when Matt Murray gets back?

Blueger is a similar player to Guentzel but maybe a little less talented. Regardless, it’s still a great pick up for Pittsburgh. He’ll be a center though as well so he may need to add some versatility to his game if he wants to succeed with the Penguins or any NHL team.

Finally, we’ve come to Ethan Prow, who is actually the most intriguing in my opinion. Prow is a smaller player but has great offensive intangibles and a skill set. Prow can succeed despite his size if he can continue to refine his defense. The Penguins prized college free agent signing this offseason could be a Penguin sooner rather than later.

I’d also like to honorably mention Stuart Percy in this conversation. The Penguins signed him off of free agency this offseason when Toronto had decided he wasn’t worth a contract compared to their other contracted rookies. He’s a pretty sound defenseman already on both sides of the puck. Expect for him to see some NHL ice time this season if some injuries occur on the blue line. If the Penguins move on from Derrick Pouliot, I’d expect either Percy or Steven Oleksy to fill the seventh defenseman role.

For Matt Murray the sky is the limit. There won’t be a ton to improve upon for him besides a few kinks to work out in his game. I personally see Scott Wilson being the most improved.

He was great in his 24 games last year and he could see substantial playing time if he impresses his coaching staff, which I don’t see as a problem.

Wilson has the best finishing ability of all of these players and won’t go forgotten in Mike Sullivan’s high pace-high scoring offensive scheme.

Personally I don’t think so. I think the Penguins want to experiment with Hagelin and potentially Kessel on Sid’s wing at some point when all are healthy.

I think they want to spread the lines out a little and see if they can’t find a combination that hits.

With that being said…

Come playoff time, you can bet your bottom dollar the ‘HBK’ Line will again emerge to give the Penguins the most lethal line in hockey.

This is a tougher question because the Pens are so deep that really only injuries are going to give someone a promotion.

My list of people we should for sure see in the NHL would be Oskar Sundqvist, Jake Guentzel, and Carter Rowney.

These three will likely be guaranteed some NHL time this season if an injury occurs. With Sid’s injury, it’s likely we’ll see Sundqvist take Sid’s roster spot down the middle.

Guentzel and Rowney fit the Penguins’ “long term plans” according to Mike Sullivan. But they’re an injury or two away from making their NHL debuts.

Defenseman Stuart Percy is one that I like. He probably won’t get NHL time because of the depth at defense and it’s likely David Warsofsky would get the call before Percy due to his seniority with the club.

I don’t think anyone is complaining about the jersey design. They’re absolutely gorgeous. I love them.

As for the Stadium Series jersey…

It’s tough to speculate. The Penguins obviously went with the modernized old-school 1990’s look with their new home and away’s. The blue uniforms could always return.

Being it’s the 50th anniversary, the Penguins will likely stay with the throwback theme instead of trying to create a brand-new jersey for the Stadium Series.

Opening Graphic done by @goodkdmaattacty

2016 Penguins Preview: AHL Player Predictions

During last seasons incredible championship run, the Penguins were led by a few dominant forces. Phil Kessel was able to silence his haters, Matt Murray put up an amazing rookie performance, and Sidney Crosby solidified his spot as the world’s greatest. While Matt Murray was by far the Penguins best rookie, many players seem to overlook all of the other rookies that had quality minutes in Pittsburgh this season. Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, and Tom Kuhnhackl played crucial minutes as rookies in the playoffs. Along with these players, there’s a couple other players in the Penguins system that have a chanve to crack the lineup. Here’s a few rookies/AHL players that have a chance to wear a Penguins uniform this season.

David Warsofsky- A member of the Penguins last season, Warsofsky was claimed by the New Jersey Devils through waivers. If many Penguins fans forgot about Warsofsky, he was injured when referee Tim Peel slipped and knocked over the Penguins defenseman. David was brought up from the AHL due to injury, and if that happens again this year, surely Warsofsky will fill the gap. He was solid on defense and should be a great replacement defenseman.

Scott Wilson- Brought up with other players such as Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and Tom Kuhnhackl, Wilson has a heck of a shot to even make the opening night roster. He scored goals in three straight games this season and looked to be a great offensive threat. Unfortunately, Wilson suffered a foot injury that required surgery and missed the entire championship run by the Penguins. With an offseason of healing and a strong training camp, Wilson has a great chance to start the season with the Penguins. While I don’t see Wilson playing much in the top six, expect him to be a bigger role player in the Penguins bottom six.

Oskar Sundqvist- After seeing his initial preseason play a few seasons ago, I thought Sundqvist was NHL ready. Thankfully, I am not an NHL General Manager. Sundqvist will fit in nicely as an injury replacement center for the Penguins, but with Matt Cullen now resigning, his chances of making the roster have decreased. There isn’t much offensive upside with Sundqvist, but his defensive awareness is very impressive. Sundqvist will be the Penguins future fourth line center, but for now, he will remain in the press box for the time being.

Jake Guentzel- A very pleasant surprise for the Penguins, Guentzel helps improve the Penguins depth and prospect pool. It will take some more seasoning in order for him to be NHL ready, but the Penguins have a great player in Guentzel. A their round draft choice in 2013, Jake spent three seasons at the University of Nebraska-Omaha before joining the Penguins late this year. Recording 14 points in 10 AHL playoff games, Guentzel was stellar for the Baby Penguins. Expect a midseason injury call up for Guentzel.

Carter Rowney- While there’s a slim chance that Rowney sees time with the Penguins this season, Rowney looked great with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last season. Spending the last three seasons with the Baby Penguins, the Penguins extended Rowney to an NHL contract in March. This doesn’t mean Rowney is guaranteed a spot in Pittsburgh, it is encouraging to see the Penguins continuously find NHL calibre forwards. Scoring 24 goals and 56 points in 74 games last season in the AHL, Rowney has proven his offensive upside. If he begins the season at the same pace as last year, he should see some time in Pittsburgh.

Stuart Percy- A first round pick of Toronto in 2011, Percy was never able to blossom into the player that Toronto expected of him. Signing with Pittsburgh this offseason, Stuart is the Penguin’s newest reclamation project. After showing the rest of the league that the Penguins can rediscover talented offensive defenseman like Justin Schultz last season, Pittsburgh will hope to settle down Percy’s game. Percy has only ever played in 12 NHL games before and was never truly given a chance to show what he can do. If Percy can settle his game down and provide solid possession, then perhaps we will see him in a Penguins jersey at some point this season.