Let’s be honest, when the puck dropped on October 12, the Pens were clear underdogs. No one expected the Pens to even be relevant in that game. Further still, no one expected the Pens to get through their Florida trip with more than 1 point. But yet the Penguins are without their 2 main stars and have 5 points through 3 games.
Before the season started, the Penguins were bracing for the absence of Malkin until at least December and Crosby would be out up to 10 games (there’s potential he may be in the line on Saturday, Oct 23, missing only half that amount). The steel city, Pens media, and even internally all let out a deep sigh. With all the stars in play, the team was just over the positive side of being a playoff team.. barely. Starting off the season against the Lightning and Panthers before even stepping on home ice could mean the season starting off horribly, and all the arm chair coaches demanding the team be sold for scrap and starting the rebuild. Thankfully that didn’t happen.
On Thursday the Pens took full advantage of a Lightning team that seemed to epitomize having the Championship hangover with a lopsided 6-2 win. The Pens followed this performance up with a 5-4 OT against the Panthers in a game which was not only more exciting, but more physical than their previous match. Coming home, they steamrolled the Blackhawks 5-2 . Sure, it’s only 3 games and you can make the point that Chicago is horrible, and home teams in banner raising games don’t have a great record, but 5 points are 5 points.
It’s not just luck that got the Pens to this position. It’s the grit and hard work of a lineup that want to not only prove their worth, but show that the Pens aren’t just Crosby, Malkin, and Letang. If you would of bet that Heinen would of had the first goal in the NHL season, and lead the Pens with 3 goals, you would of made a decent penny. The top 3 scorers on the Pens are Heinen, Blueger, and Rodrigues. Carter and Letang lead the team with 4 points and 6 players tied for second with 3 (including Simon, O’Connor, and McGinn).
The team as a whole is doing well. Their 5 points lead the league. They share the most goals for (5.00) with the Blues, Panthers, and Blue Jackets. Top 10 in Goals Against, Shots, and Shots Against. They’re also tied for second in the Power Kill.
Three games in is a very small sample size, I’m also not saying that the Pens don’t need at least Crosby for a large portion of the season, or that they’re a playoff lock. What should be said about this current line up is that they have players (who we didn’t expect) rise to the occasion, they have grit, they play for their teammates and team and not for the praise that may come with it. It doesn’t matter that the stars are out, they have a job to do and they give their full effort every day, no matter the outcome. If that doesn’t describe Pittsburgh, I don’t know what does.