The Penguins played all their old hits, Connor Bedard arrived, and don't count out the Lightning
The new Penguins looked a lot like the old Penguins, and do not give up on the Tampa Bay Lightning just yet.
Happy Wednesday. Here is what is ahead today.
The Pittsburgh Penguins start the year with a dud.
The Chicago Blackhawks get introduced to their new star.
Nobody seems to like the Tampa Bay Lightning this season but they are not going away just yet.
That looked familiar for the Penguins
After being stagnant for the past couple of years and having any excitement around the team stripped away by the Ron Hextall reign of error, there seemed to be a real sense of excitement around the start of the 2023-24 season for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Not quite the same buzz we saw between 2016 and 2018, but a definite jolt of energy and renewed optimism thanks to the hiring of Kyle Dubas and the acquisition of a future Hall of Famer in Erik Karlsson.
It took exactly one game for the new version of the Penguins — which in many areas is a completely unrecognizable version of last year’s roster — to look an awful lot like the old version that frustrated everybody in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
In a lot of ways everything came full circle as last year’s season essentially ended when they lost at home to a bad Chicago team in a must-win game, a victory that actually helped put Chicago in the winning draft lottery spot to land Connor Bedard.
So it was kind of fitting that the two teams met to open the season on Tuesday, and also fitting that the game followed a familiar path.
For the Penguins, it was a lot of the same problems that plagued them a year ago.
A lifeless power play that does not match the talent level and failed to capitalize in a big moment, an inability to finish scoring chances, and defensive breakdowns that resulted in blowing a multiple goal lead. Chicago even held a pretty substantial edge in expected goals at 5-on-5 and seemed to carry the play for stretches of time.
It was not great!
That said, it is still just one game out of 82 and this roster IS dramatically different from last year’s. So there should be hope that a lot of those issues can be fixed.
This year’s roster — on paper anyway — looks like it should be a better defensive group, it should be better at protecting leads, and the addition of Karlsson should help get the power play going back in a positive direction.
The power play sucked on Tuesday, but it also only had two opportunities so there is not much you can take away from that (other than the fact they looked bad in those two opportunities).
Sidney Crosby’s line also had an uncharacteristically tough night and was on the ice for a couple of goals against, while Crosby himself was on the minus-side in pretty much every major category. On most nights that line will come out ahead. It is imperative for this team that his line does come out ahead because as good as the bottom-six might be defensively, it is not going to score much.
So on one hand, it is one game.
On the other hand, that one game looked an awful like the 82 games we saw a year ago.
Connor Bedard looked the part
There were two teams on the ice in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and the big story for the Blackhawks was the arrival of Bedard for his much anticipated NHL debut.
And you know what?
He did not disappoint.
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