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The Landlubber’s Guide to the Pittsburgh Penguins

Everything yinz need to know before tonight’s matchup

Iceburgh marches through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh in the 2016 Stanley Cup Victory Parade as a large crowd of fans cheers from the side of the road Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Hey you. You’re swept up in all this Seattle Kraken hype. You want to know more about hockey but don’t know where to start. Well, we want to help make these games easy and fun for you to watch.

Throughout the season, we’ll release Landlubber’s Guides designed with the new fan in mind. This includes basic need-to-know info for you to absorb before you watch Kraken games and highlights.

Let’s dive in to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Are they any good?

They’ve made it to the playoffs for fifteen straight seasons, and if this season were to suddenly announce it’s over right now, they’d punch ticket number sixteen. Yeah, I’d say this is a good team.

However, they aren’t exactly as dominant this season as they have been in the past. That’s only to be expected when a team has played half of its games so far without both of their top stars - and all of them without at least one. That’s not even to mention the sheer number of injuries and COVID-19 cases this team has gone through. At one point they were down their top three centers, and at another point they didn’t even have their head coach. The Penguins can be forgiven for sitting a little precariously in the number 2 wild card spot right now with all of this happening. Even though they are known for somehow playing better when half the lineup is decimated and they’re playing unknown AHL callups that we affectionally call Mark Donks, to be hit with as many struggles as they have this early is draining to any team.

Who should I look out for?

  • Sidney Crosby (#87, center) - Don’t call him “Sid the Kid” anymore, but if he wanted to retire right now at age 34, Crosby would do so having already cemented himself as a future Hall of Famer and has a legacy that will live on forever in the sport of hockey. Three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, and one IIHF gold medal speak to his ability to not just win championships, but to be the captain that steers those teams to victory - not to mention the sheer number of individual awards he’s won over the years. But he’s not retiring any time soon, so we get to still be blessed with watching one of the greatest do his thing. His game has matured into well-rounded elite ability: he can score goals from impossible angles or with only one hand, set up amazing assists, commit to the defensive play, and more:

Now, full caveat, this season hasn’t been stellar so far for Crosby. He had offseason wrist surgery, missed the start of the season, returned to play one game, and then immediately found himself testing positive for COVID-19. It hasn’t been a good time to be him. He’s still fully working himself back up to his regular form, but he’s pulled off three-point nights recently, so we’re getting there.

  • Jake Guentzel (#59, left wing) - He’s usually found stuck like glue to Crosby’s line, but he’s a dominant force with or without him. He currently possesses an 11-game point streak and has earned points in every one of the Penguins’ road games. What’s this? You’re telling me this is an away game for the Penguins here? Oh no. It might not be easy trying to disappoint “yinzers” looking for half off Jake’s Shakes with the way he’s been playing, but the Kraken still need to try.
  • Evan Rodrigues (#9) - If you would have told me I’d be putting his name here at the start of the season, I might have looked at you funny, but he has gone and taken the most advantage of the multiple gaps in the Penguins’ lineup night in and night out. Before Guentzel went on his hot streak, the man they call “E-Rod” was their leading goal scorer.

Any Seattle ties?

Closest thing I’ve managed to find is that Tristan Jarry and Danton Heinen are from the Pacific Northwest, but they grew up in British Columbia. Wrong country for this section, buds. But I’ve got nothing immediate that I can find that connects the Pittsburgh roster to the state of Washington.

Odds and ends

  • The Kraken selected Brandon Tanev from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the expansion draft, and we will forever be grateful to them for them giving us the heart and soul of our team. The Penguins also indirectly gave us Jared McCann after they traded him to the Maple Leafs, who then immediately used him as bait for the Kraken. With McCann, he may or may not be taking the revenge game concept more seriously than most tonight based on his quotes. Jamie Oleksiak and Riley Sheahan have also played for the Penguins previously in their careers. And I grew up in Western PA only to now write about the Kraken, so we can argue I belong in this section, too.
  • It’s upsetting that Evgeni Malkin is still rehabbing from his leg injury, because he is the other half of what makes the Penguins so dominant. It’s been said before that Crosby is as good as he is because he has the work ethic, but Malkin is nothing but sheer talent. But mostly: don’t anger the Russian bear.
  • The Penguins possess the league’s best penalty kill rate, and at one point this season, they held that status while simultaneously having the league’s worst power play rate. They really said, “If we can’t score on the power play, no one can.”
  • I’m just being shameless here in wanting to share a highlight of a Penguins player I adore in spite of his defensive liabilities, but also, maybe the Kraken should consider this goal when figuring out defensive shifts. Whoops.
  • Fenway Sports Group is in the process of purchasing the Penguins for...reasons? I’m still confused about it, honestly. Did they see the black and gold and confuse them with the Boston Bruins? Anyways, nice to see the Red Sox making moves.

Puck drop is at 7 pm Pacific, 10 pm Eastern. If you’re in the Seattle region, you can find the game on ROOT Sports NW, and fellow out-of-market people can watch it on ESPN+.