Ron Hextall touted last Friday of how he believes the Penguins are better equipped to now win in the post-season than they were say two weeks ago. The comments raised a lot of eyebrows from the fan base and local media for a General Manager whose anger and criticism towards is rivaling that of David Littlefield from 15+ years ago.

“I like the way our team’s playing; I like our team and we wanted to enhance our chances and get better. We feel like we did that,” Hextall said during his post-trade deadline media session. a lot of eyebrows among the fan base and local media.

But, is Hextall correct?

Everything starts with Mikael Granlund and was Granlund the right player to add long-term? Probably not but in the short-term he improves Pittsburgh’s top-9 and gives the Penguins a body who’s at least a threat on a game by game basis to create 1-on-1 offense. The subtractions of Kasperi Kapanen and Brock McGinn have opened up a full-time spot for Drew O’Connor who some in the organization look at as a trade deadline addition with how he’s progressed as a younger player and is learning to use his size below the circles. The roster shuffle has also given a more-steady role to Danton Heinen as many seem to forget this was a player who netted 18 goals last season, including 3 goals in seven playoff games. This is a player management has wanted more in the lineup after Heinen fell early into Mike Sullivan’s doghouse. Then there’s Nick Bonino who gives the Penguins more jam to the 4th line than Teddy Blueger was ever going to give them.

After the Edmonton game, the Penguins coaching staff made some tweaks to their defensive zone structure and shocking as it is, the players actually implemented it during stretches of the four-game winning streak. A focus has been on insulating the slot area to improve their defensive play from 35ft in, a source says to play bigger defensively, and the improved defensive play was actually seen in the St. Louis and particularly performances against Tampa Bay.

It all went out the window against the Panthers which is always concerning with this group as if the opposition wants to play wagon hockey, the Penguins often can’t help themselves. But, if the Penguins can consistently play a tighter defensive structure in the middle of the ice that is more equipped for how their d-men are built, especially with the Dmitry Kulikov addition, they have the makings of being an improved hockey club down the stretch.


Pittsburgh’s deadline pursuit of Mikael Granlund happened really quick as in a matter of 48 hours from when Pittsburgh first made contact with Nashville. And on Wednesday of last week when the trade was made, the Penguins felt they had to make a decision that night or Nashville was moving in another direction to trade Granlund to the To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!