The Need to Knows
Time: 10:00 pm PT
Where: Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, WA
Place to Watch: ROOT Sports Northwest
Place to Listen: KJR 93.3
Know Your Enemy
The Pittsburgh Penguins have something to prove this season: that they aren’t too old to play good hockey. Now, it’s never a good idea to underestimate any of the core trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. In fact, Crosby already has 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in 7 games played, so underestimate him especially at your own risk. However, it’s not just the core that’s getting older. It’s the roster as a whole.
Yep. The oldest roster in the entire league on average.
Part of them becoming the hockey equivalent of the Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary was spurred on by offseason moves, often trading away younger players for older counterparts. This is all because the Penguins front office understands that by committing to re-sign Malkin for four years and Letang for six that they owe this group the chance to earn at least one more Stanley Cup. Trading older allowed them to skip the development phase that certain players were in to try to get players who are already at peak form. The risk in this strategy, however, is not knowing when exactly the aging curve will hit and whether the players they’ve acquired will age as gracefully as the core has been doing.
Now, we’re working with a small sample size so far, but the Penguins’ 4-3-1 record has had its early ups and downs. All of their wins so far have come with a whopping 6 goals scored. I am not joking. At least one team in Pittsburgh can actually score touchdowns!
Their losses, however, have been a different story. They came out hot against the Canadiens, posting a 2-goal lead going into the second, but a hat trick of penalties by Jeff Petry helped spell the team’s demise as the Canadiens roared back for an overtime comeback win. In Edmonton, the Penguins once again reached a 2-goal lead, but then the Oilers scored 5 unanswered goals to earn their own touchdown victory. Against the Flames, the Penguins were even more lethargic, only managing to scrape up a single power play goal in a 4-1 loss. Then their third loss in a row came against the Canucks, who came out to a hot start, and the Penguins seemed incapable of matching that energy.
There seems to be two different versions of this Penguins team, one that is firing on all cylinders and dominates, or doesn’t have enough gas left in the tank. Throughout their current road trip, it’s entirely been the latter.
The start to the Kraken’s season has also been in a similarly shaky place. Teams that they shouldn’t beat, they do, and teams that they should beat, they don’t. A lot of this is because, yet again, Dave Hakstol seems to be choosing a coaching strategy of just floundering around. It seems like the team doesn’t have a clear direction its supposed to be moving in, and that makes it hard for the Kraken to develop any kind of consistency.
Interestingly enough, as both the Kraken and Penguins go into this game, they do so after having both faced the same opponent: the Vancouver Canucks.
Sure, the Kraken gave the Canucks their first win of the season, but there’s a major difference in how the two teams fared in their losses. The Penguins never had a lead once during the game, while the Kraken at least jumped out to a good start. The team faltered, sure, but they kept pushing until the very last minute, scoring a goal to get themselves within one.
The difference in attitude alone could be enough to tip this game in the Kraken’s favor. If the Kraken come into this game with the same mindset to keep pushing ahead regardless of the odds or the score, they could easily take this one against a Penguins team that is running on empty right now. Plus, the Kraken have a day of rest where the Penguins are on the second half of a back-to-back. That could also be a huge difference maker.
My one caveat is to repeat: never underestimate the Penguins. They could always get their mojo back at any moment.