The Penguins start a historic season as "The Big Three" begin the quest for a fourth Stanley Cup.
Welcome to the 2022-23 NHL season! This is quite a momentous occasion for the Pittsburgh Penguins. With their dynasty players intact, the Pens start this year making history by tying the record for the longest-tenured trio of teammates playing together on one team in all of the four major professional sports leagues. This is the 17th season with the "Big Three": Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang playing alongside each other.
They're trying to undertake an equally groundbreaking quest to win a fourth Stanley Cup with that same team core too. A history ensuring feat that would overtake their current three Cups (along with those of Boston and Chicago three) as the league's benchmark for post-lockout success with a single core. This season is easily the most historic since the Penguins' 50th anniversary year in 2016-17 when they celebrated that landmark milestone and just happened to bring home their fifth team Cup as a finale to cap it all off. That leaves just one question for this year- can these players rise to the task once again and give 2022-23 the storybook ending that everything Pens fan dreams will come true?
The journey to answer that question starts tonight at PPG Paints Arena vs. the Arizona Coyotes. It's been way too long since we've done this, so let's jump right in:
New Year, New Faces
Making their Penguins debuts tonight are high-profile off-season additions Jeff Petry and Jan Rutta on defense. Petry was acquired in the Mike Matheson trade from Montreal. Rutta is coming off of three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Tampa Bay Lightning including two back-to-back Cup wins. Former Penguin Josh Archibald will also re-debut for the first time since returning to the team after playing several seasons with Arizona and Edmonton.
Ice vs. Heat
-Pittsburgh has won eight straight games against the Coyotes.
-The Penguins have won seven straight games vs. the Coyotes at home and are 13-5-0 all-time against them at PPG Paint Arena.
-They also swept last season’s series against Arizona 2-0 and by a margin of 10-4 in goals.
Pens Game #1: 2022 Home Opener- Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Arizona Coyotes
Date: Thursday, October 13, 2022
Time: 7 PM (ET)
Place: Pittsburgh, PA
Venue: PPG Paints Arena
Broadcasts: Local- ATTSN, National- ESPN+
[2021-22 Team Results-]
Records- PIT: 46-25-11, ARI: 25-50-7
League Standing- PIT: 12th, ARI: 31st
Points- PIT: 103, ARI: 57
Goals For- PIT: 269 (11th), ARI: 206 (32nd)
Goals Against- PIT: 222 (28th), ARI: 309 (3rd)
Shots/GP- PIT: 34.7 (6th), ARI: 25.9 (32nd)
PP% Rank- PIT: 19th (20.2%), ARI: 30th (13.9%)
PK% Rank- PIT: 3rd (84.4%), ARI: 28th (75%)
Season Series- 2-0 PIT
Series Goals For- PIT: 10, ARI: 4
[Stat Leaders By Team Comparisons]
-2021-22 Penguins Series Leaders vs. Coyotes-
Points: Sidney Crosby- 5.
Goals: Sidney Crosby- 3.
Assists: Bryan Rust- 3.
Plus/Minus: Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin- +4.
Shots: Sidney Crosby- 10.
-2021-22 Coyotes Series Leaders vs. Penguins-
Points: Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz- 3.
Goals: Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz- 2.
Assists: Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, Shane Gostisbehere, Travis Boyd- 1.
Plus/Minus: Clayton Keller- +3.
Shots: Lawson Crouse- 4.
Projected starting goalies-
-Tristan Jarry- #35
Bio Info: 6' 2", 194 lbs. DOB: 4/29/1995 (27). From: Surrey, BC.
Drafted: 2013- Rd 2, Pk 44 (PIT); Experience: 7th Season.
2021-22 Record: 34-18-6
2021-22 Stats: 2.42 GAA, .919 SV%, 4 SOs
Career vs. ARI: 4-0, 1.72 GAA, .928 SV%
-Karel Vejmelka- #70
Bio Info: 6'3", 202 lbs. DOB: 5/25/1996 (26). From: Trebic, Czechia.
Drafted: 2015- Rd 5, Pk 145 (NSH). Experience: 2nd Season.
2021-22 Record: 13-32-3
2021-22 Stats: 3.68 GAA, .898 SV%, 1 SO
Career vs. PIT: 0-1, 6.01 GAA, .833 SV%
[A primer on the players who left or signed with the Penguins over the summer-]
-Key players added: Forwards- Ryan Poehling, Josh Archibald, Drake Caggiula. Defensemen- Jeff Petry, Jan Rutta, Ty Smith (assigned to the AHL). Goalie- Dustin Tokarski (assigned to the AHL).
-Key players lost: Forwards- Evan Rodrigues. Defensemen- Mike Matheson, John Marino. Goalie- Louis Domingue.
The projected Pens lines for Thursday, October 13, 2022, vs. the Arizona Coyotes-
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Jeff Carter - Kasperi Kapanen
Brock McGinn - Ryan Poehling - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - Jeff Petry
P.O. Joseph - Jan Rutta
PP1: Crosby, Guentzel, Rust, Malkin, Letang
PP2: Carter, Rakell, Heinen, Zucker, Petry
PK1: Poehling, McGinn, Dumoulin, Rutta
PK2: Kapanen, Archibald, Pettersson, Joseph
Kasperi Kapanen and Pierre-Olivier Joseph are two new faces to the Pens PK, which is something to keep an eye on going forward. The Penguins' penalty-killing unit was the league’s third-best overall last year so a high level of performance is expected.
The Penguins will be playing with a nearly fully healthy line-up tonight as the only injury they face heading into the season opener is to Teddy Blueger. Blueger remains out on a day-to-day basis with an unknown upper-body injury. He has yet to take contact in practice which is a prerequisite to returning to play. Debuting Pen Ryan Poehling will fill in for him as the fourth-line centerman.
This is the most complete Pens lineup they’ve had since January of last season due to injuries. This gives us a rough look at the purpose-built shape of this team for the first time in General Manager Ron Hextall’s regime.
The only surprise on the Pens roster is the presence of Pierre-Olivier Joseph on the third defensive pair. Joseph seemingly made the team by default as he would need to hit waivers to be sent to the minor leagues. Instead of risking losing the 23-year-old, the Penguins’ sent Ty Smith down to the AHL instead. Smith appeared to win POJ’s position in camp but is new to the organization and has a waivers exempt contract. This is not expected to remain the scenario with Smith permanently, however. It’s very likely we see him back in the Burgh before Christmas.
Arizona lost a lot of talent over the summer and through injuries their biggest star player to watch tonight is young 24-year-old Clayton Keller. Keller scored 28 goals with 35 assists in 67 games played last season with the team averaging just shy of a point per game.
The Coyotes have some real bite this year with Zack Kassian and Liam O’Brien in their lineup. They both have infamous reputations as agitating players and it’s not a coincidence they’re each on the team. Arizona seems to be trying to set a new, more bruising identity judging by both those additions. That’s a new dynamic to this matchup that Penguins' star players will have to be mindful to be aware of when on ice.
[A primer on the players who left or signed with the Coyotes over the summer-]
-Key players added: Forwards- Nick Bjugstad, Zack Kassian. Defensemen- Josh Brown, Patrik Nemeth, Troy Stecher.
-Key players lost: Forwards- Jay Beagle, Phil Kessel, Antoine Roussel. Defensemen- Kyle Capobianco, Anton Stralman.
Jakob Churchyn is out for the Yotes due to injury. He’s easily their biggest loss by a mile right now. However, goalie Jonas Johansson, forward Andrew Ladd, and Ben McCarthy are also sidelined.
[Upcoming player achievements & records-]
-Evgeni Malkin (1,146) is 4 points away from 1,150 career points.
-Brian Dumoulin (114) is 6 points away from 200 career points.
-Teddy Blueger (82) is 8 points away from 90 career points.
-Sidney Crosby (892) is 8 assists away from 900 career assists.
-Rickard Rakell (194) is 6 assists away from 200 career assists.
-Brian Dumoulin (96) is 4 assists away from 100 career assists.
-Bryan Rust (146) is 4 assists away from 150 career assists.
-Bryan Rust (124) is 1 goal away from 125 career goals.
-Kris Letang (144) is 1 goal away from 145 career goals.