Nobody can make heads or tails of a team five games in, but the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0-1 start is a welcoming sign of what might be in-store this season, especially with how they have done it.
In all four wins, the Penguins have scored six goals, with a total of 26 through five games as the goal differential sits at an NHL-best +15 as of Sunday.
Coming in, the Penguins were a bit of a question mark, especially after an offseason that began with uncertainty, especially when the futures of Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin were unclear. Eventually, we got answers, as Letang agreed to a six-year extension the day before the NHL Draft in Montreal, and on the eve of free agency, Malkin, who appeared poised to test the open market, signed on to a new four-year deal, keeping the Crosby-Malkin-Letang core together for the foreseeable future. Locking up Bryan Rust was also important going forward, as he and Jake Guentzel could be the future leaders when the core three are no longer in Pittsburgh.
Five games in, those guys have been productive, Including Crosby, whose third period goal Saturday night in Columbus was a dagger to the heart of the Blue Jackets, who saw Pittsburgh score five answered goals after jumping out to a 3-1 lead, only to watch the Penguins come back and win 6-3 to start a road trip.
Hockey is an 82-game season, and it is more about what you do the second half of the season vs. the first half. Regardless, the Penguins out of the starting gate are good. The only blemish is the 3-2 overtime loss at Montreal where they surrendered a 2-0 third period lead as backup goaltender Casey DeSmith gave them a chance to pick up a point.
Tristan Jarry also looking sharp early on, with the hope he stays healthy after an injury sidelined him down the stretch into last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The roster provides familiarity, which is something the Penguins have been blessed with since they returned to the playoffs in 2007. Seeing that type of vintage play early calms the nerves of Pittsburgh sports fans who just suffered another 100-loss Pirates season and a struggling Steelers squad.
A big test awaits this week as the Penguins head into western Canada to face the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, playoff teams last season, in their first back-to-back games this season. Another back-to-back scenario comes against the Vancouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken by week’s end, where they’ll be likely favorites.