NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Pittsburgh Penguins.
1. Can Tristan Jarry handle being the No. 1 goalie?
The trade of goalie Matt Murray, a two-time Stanley Cup champion (2016, 2017), to the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 7 signaled a changing of the guard to Jarry for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Pittsburgh traded up to select Jarry in the second round (No. 44) of the 2013 NHL Draft, so his promotion always was a possibility. The 25-year-old was 12-2-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in 13 starts from Nov. 16-Dec. 30 last season, including three shutouts in four starts Dec. 4-12, and had a .929 save percentage at even strength compared to .901 for Murray.
Jarry, who was a restricted free agent, signed a three-year contract Oct. 3.
“I think just growing a little bit in every aspect of my game will really help, and to play more games and more games consecutively, I think that’s going to be a big thing for me and be able to help me with my development,” Jarry said.
2. Will Kasperi Kapanen have success on a line with center Sidney Crosby?
Kapanen was given a vote of confidence when, after being traded to Pittsburgh by the Toronto Maple Leafs, coach Mike Sullivan said the right wing could be just what Crosby and Jake Guentzel need to jump-start the top line this season.
“We think he brings that speed dimension that I think is complementary to Sid and Jake’s game,” Sullivan told The Scoop podcast in November. “And he’s shown the ability to finish. He’s scored 20 goals in this league (2018-19). He has elite speed, he has good size (6-foot-1, 194 pounds), so he brings a size dimension to that line as well. So when we play in games that tend to be heavy in nature, I think [Kapanen is] a guy who can help us in that capacity. We think his skill set could potentially be very complementary to Sid and Jake.”
Kapanen scored 36 points (13 goals, 23 assists) in 69 games for the Maple Leafs last season.
3. Is it now or never to win another Stanley Cup with an aging core?
Crosby is 33 years old, forward Evgeni Malkin is 34, and defenseman Kris Letang is 33. Malkin and Letang each can become an unrestricted free agent after 2021-22; Crosby has five seasons remaining on a 12-year contract he signed in July 2012.
“I believe how [Crosby, Malkin and Letang] prepare themselves and how they conduct themselves on and off the ice will set us up for a couple more good years,” assistant general manager Patrik Allvin said. “I think we’ll be able to get some youth into our club this season, and the trades that [general manager Jim Rutherford] made, starting last year, for [defenseman] John Marino (July 2019) and [forward] Jason Zucker (February 2020) and this year with Kapanen and [defenseman] Mike Matheson, have provided a boost.
“I think we’ve brought in some new, young energy, so I’m excited.”