The 2019 Regular Season begins for the Penguins tonight at home against the Buffalo Sabres. We’ve all heard the same questions all summer long:
- Can Malkin rebound?
- Can the team get by without Kessel’s production?
- Can Murray stay healthy and regain his form?
- What about this defense, including Jack Johnson?
Heading into tonight’s game, there are some more immediate questions:
- How will the new forwards fit in? Galchenyuk has been nursing an injury, but looks to have some early chemistry with Malkin. Tanev was used much higher in the lineup during the preseason, skating with both Malkin and Crosby. Can he sustain that role? Kahun has been the slowest to acclimate himself to the team.
- What will the defensive pairs look like? For the large majority of the preseason, fans and media seemed under the impression Marcus Pettersson would be on the 2nd pairing with Justin Schultz, Juuso Riikola had passed Jack Johnson to claim the 3rd spot, and Johnson seemed to be on his way out. Not so fast. After the last preseason game, Johnson reclaimed his 2nd pairing role next to Schultz, Pettersson returned to his last year pairing with Gudbranson, and Juuso Riikola is again looking like a scratch. How long does this last?
- Can the team limit odd man rushes? – Mike Sullivan clearly wasn’t happy with the amount of odd-man rushes against in the preseason finale. Enough so that the Penguins spent the next day practicing it for quite awhile, with Sullivan quoted as saying something to the effect of “If we are going to keep giving them up every game, I guess we better practice defending them.” This was a killer for the team last year. The defenseman need to learn how to pinch more effectively and not leave their goalies out to dry on so many odd-man breaks.
The team gets an easier opponent to start the year. Buffalo is no pushover, but they also have yet to reach their potential with all that young talent like Eichel, Reinhart, Middlestadt, and the Rasmus’. Penguins win this win this game 4-2.
Let’s see how things turn out and comment after the game.