At this point is pretty easy to identify the Pittsburgh Penguins’ biggest problems this season.
The power play is lousy. Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have seemingly forgotten how to play hockey for large stretches of time. Injuries to the defense rapidly mounted and are only now starting to reverse. All of those developments are a factor in a rather uninspiring start to the 2020-21 season. You hope — hope! — at some point that the power play gets straightened out and Malkin and Letang get things back on track. Their track records are all strong enough that even at their ages in their mid-30s there is reason to believe they will get better.
But even if they do there are a few other X-factors that are extremely concerning at the moment.
Go back to the start of the season and there were a handful of X-factors that I thought could largely dictate which direction the season goes. If these positions went well, the season was probably going to go well. If they did not, well, it would probably be a very long short season.
The biggest of those X-factors was goaltending. With Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith the Penguins were entering the season with one of the least experienced goaltending duos in the league and their most inexperienced goalie duo to open the season in almost two decades. Neither player had any sort of extended track record, and there was always a chance the most important position on the ice could become a season-changing issue.
That is the case so far.
I am not going to absolve the defense of blame here entirely. It has not been good, and there are way too many mistakes and breakdowns. But the defense has not been so bad that your starting goalie should have an .857 save percentage through their first seven starts. Every goalie is going to face scoring chances, and play behind defensive breakdowns, and have to make some big saves. Right now the Penguins are not getting many saves at all. Between Jarry and DeSmith they are carrying an .865 save percentage for the season, a mark that puts them 31st out of 31 teams in the league. You are not going to win many games with that happening. If it does not turn around, and fast, then pretty much everything else we talk about here is going to be meaningless.