Penguins return from tough road trip to face Bruins

Pittsburgh returns tonight from a disastrous 0-4 Western Canada Swing with  present of facing the 8-1 Boston Bruins at the PPG Paints Arena, which who knows might be a good thing for the Penguins who are just a different team at home.

Boston looking as good as anyone to open the season are an example of a contender where they seem to be getting that immediate jolt of a summer coaching change where a new voice, changes to the system is doing wonders to start the season and this has the look of a team that will have sustaining power this season if they’re older vets can stay healthy.

And the Bruins who made the Stanley Cup Final in 2019, got rid of a very good coach in Bruce Cassidy who is making his mark in Vegas already.

In saying this, I believe Mike Sullivan without a doubt is one of the best coaches in the National Hockey League and deserves to be regarded as the greatest coach in Penguins’ history. He’s that good.

But, the Penguins have lost the easiest route to spark your team whether one was going to be needed this season or next with the massive commitment they gave Sullivan this summer.

All you have to do is look at the swings of the Penguins season already, nine games in.

Reality is they’re not as good as they looked the first four games of the season and they’re not as bad as they looked in the four games against Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle.

It’s somewhere in-between.

However, the games against Edmonton and Calgary especially, and even the Vancouver game showed how the Penguins belief and philosophy that there’s only one way to play continues to be problematic against teams that can push back against them with speed/skill but also add physicality against them.

If there’s ever one knock on this core group and Mike Sullivan is that in 2022 they still think they can always play like it’s 2016. And they just can’t……..

— What to Watch For Tonight & Burning Questions Already —

From a structure standpoint, everything the Penguins do on a nightly basis comes back to Kris Letang. It has for years. First two games of the season, Letang was fantastic, and the Penguins looked like a powerhouse.

Watching Letang, though, over the last four to five games and it’s been some of the worst tape we’ve seen from him in a long time. It was the type of running around, getting frustrated when hit on the forecheck similar to past playoff runs before last season that drove the coaching staff, fan base nuts and had some questioning if the team eventually had to move on from Letang to change the way they play.

When Letang’s in those type of stretches he was in the four game trip and even a little before, the Penguins almost always have defensive outings like they’ve had recently. Good or bad, he dictates what type of defensive game Pittsburgh is going to have. What Letang’ the Penguins get tonight from a structure will tell the story of how tonight goes.

Is Brian Dumoulin salvageable?

The coaching staff has remained strong believers that Dumoulin’s dip in play last season was injury related. The tape has been really bad of late and now at age 31, can Dumoulin hold up anymore as a legit No. 1 pairing defenseman?

In a contract year I’m told the Penguins feel some good hockey is still left in Dumoulin but there’s quite a few doubters emerging and for good reason.

— The Penguins were thrilled with how Evgeni Malkin showed up to camp and how he played to start the season. On the heels of a four year contract the Penguins truly weren’t comfortable giving, they’ve seen a motivated player in a lot of phases. Yet, there’s worries of how much Malkin will have left in the tank come February and March from many in the organization once the adrenaline rush phases. That’s why many around the league are determined Pittsburgh will be aggressive to add another top six talent……

— Extension Candidate Jason Zucker? —

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