Welcome to Penguins Perspectives, a weekly column by KDKA-TV Digital Producer Patrick Damp. Each Friday, Patrick will talk about the week that was, the week to come, what to watch for, and more.
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - When you think of the Pittsburgh Penguins, what do you think of?
Go ahead, take a second, and come back.
Did you think of high-end talent, scoring goals, and being one of the more exciting franchises in the National Hockey League? If so, welcome, we're on the same wavelength.
As the team has progressed through training camp and the preseason, many of us have been watching closely what this team is trying to do with a newly rebuilt bottom six. Sure, it looks like Jeff Carter will get a sweater most if not all nights and that a lot of the players signed to short-term deals or PTOs were brought in to make sure this group can defend well and lend goaltender Tristan Jarry a hand.
However, watching this team's preseason games thus far, it got me thinking…what if there's another way to go with this group?
Sure, I think the likes of Noel Acciari, Lars Eller, and Matt Nieto were savvy moves by the new general manager/president of hockey operations, but what if they could be supplanted by more than just solid two-way forwards?
Of course, the dream of 18-year-old Brayden Yager coming straight from juniors to the pros was dashed by both his trailing off in the second preseason game and Dubas's decision to send him back to juniors earlier this week, but he's not the only one who has suddenly impressed this camp.
Players like Alex Nylander, Valtteri Puustinen, and Sam Poulin have all put together a very impressive two weeks. Not only that, they've been contributing offensively, something this team, uncharacteristically, lacked last season.
I understand the compulsion after last season to retreat to safety. Last season the Penguins sat 15th in goals against with 264. Meanwhile, they were 17th in goals scored with 262. Putting them both in the bottom half of the league in goals scored and sitting with a goal differential of minus two.
These are the Pittsburgh Penguins, not the New Jersey Devils (well, the old New Jersey Devils…), their hallmark is being able to score. It always has been.
Now, with the addition of Erik Karlsson and the big boys coming back in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Jake Guentzel still here, it's time to take a lot of the offensive burden off of them and give them some help.
Reilly Smith certainly will help, in eight seasons out of his 10 consistent seasons in the league, he's scored 15 or more goals.
PO Joseph looks poised to take the next step on the blue line, giving this team a dynamic attack on defense and now, just as Mike Sullivan did in 2016, it's time to give the kids a shot.
Sure, Nylander, Puustinen, and Poulin may be rough around the edges. Drew O'Connor may be a work in progress. However, there is potential there.
The same can be said for an old friend in Radim Zohorna.
All of these players might not be the greatest defensively but they aren't afraid to play fast and they aren't afraid to take chances.
Maybe that's exactly what this franchise needs right now.
In fact, taking chances and scoring goals isn't exactly what they need, it's what they've always done.
If you're going to go out…why not go out shooting?
for more features.