Positive Energy Surrounding Refreshed Penguins Going into Puck Drop | Pittsburgh Penguins – NHL.com

On Sunday, Kyle Dubas stood in front of a group of season ticket holders watching practice, and spoke about the state of the new-look Penguins through an interview broadcast onto the brand-new videoboard at PPG Paints Arena.
The following afternoon, Pittsburgh’s President of Hockey Operations and GM stopped by the brand-new Casamigos Club to address Penguins team employees ahead of tonight’s season opener.
Moments like that help to illustrate the buzz surrounding the organization going into Game 1 tonight versus Chicago with all of the changes made by Penguins ownership following a difficult finish to last season, with Pittsburgh’s 16-year playoff streak coming to an end.
In the months since, Fenway Sports Group has demonstrated a clear commitment to their goals of competing for the Stanley Cup every year and building a best-in-class operation on both the hockey and business sides that’s included $30 million of improvements in the building.
Hiring a young, forward-thinking and intelligent hockey mind with an outstanding reputation like Dubas – who then brought in superstar defenseman and reigning Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to join Pittsburgh’s championship-caliber core – has created an energy that’s reminiscent of the Stanley Cup years.
“I think generally, there is a very positive and optimistic feeling all throughout the building and throughout the facility about the team,” Dubas said. “Now, I think it’s up to us as a group and up to the team to turn that optimism into an earned confidence.”
Dubas speaks with the media
And the players are more than ready to get going in that endeavor, with Sidney Crosby saying numerous times throughout training camp how long the offseason felt. Before this past spring, the Penguins captain had not missed the postseason since his rookie year, which was the 2005-06 campaign.
“It’s a bad feeling when you’re watching and you’re not in it,” he said. “To know we were as close as we were, I mean – it’s one point, basically, is the difference. You know that going in how tight it is, but it’s just not fun watching. That’s why we play, to be in that position. So yeah, I think motivation comes from that.”
Dubas built a strong supporting cast around what is now the longest-tenured trio in the history of North American professional sports. Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang begin their 18th season as teammates tonight, surpassing Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, who were together for 17 seasons with the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball from 1995-2011.
“It means a lot, to be honest, having the chance to win three championships with these guys. I’ve been through a lot on and off the ice with these two guys,” Letang said. “They’ve always been there for me. Geno had his fair share of injuries, Sid had his fair share of injuries, and the fact that we were always there for each other and got back on our feet to keep going was pretty special. The fact that we were able to keep it all together is pretty impressive.”
“It’s just special. There’s no other way to put it,” Crosby agreed. “You appreciate that, you’re grateful for that, and we’ll still hopefully have a few more years left.
As Dubas said, he’s not going to bet against the Big Three and their Head Coach Mike Sullivan, whose preparedness and execution – both throughout the summer and during training camp – impressed his new boss. “Certainly, can see why Sully is regarded how he is having the chance to work him day in and day out since June,” Dubas said.
But the group around them has seen a lot of turnover, with Dubas bringing in a number of new players via free agency and the waiver wire. The combination of new faces mixed with Penguins veterans has everybody completely invigorated.
“I think we’ve brought in a lot of guys who have accomplished a lot in this league, and guys who have made a name for themselves. I think I’m excited about the potential to do something great,” Bryan Rust said. “From management on down, there’s been some changes, and I think everyone’s excited about the opportunity we have in front of us. This is a group that we all think can do something special, and now we just got to kind of walk the walk.”
Reilly Smith, who won the Stanley Cup with the Golden Knights last season, is one of those additions. The forward said the hunger around this team reminds him of the vibes in Vegas ahead of their championship run, as the Golden Knights had missed the playoffs the year before.
“I think there’s so much opportunity and hopefulness for this group,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of experience in here, and I think the sky’s the limit for this group, and I think our expectations are super high. So, there’s a lot of work to fulfill that, but I think everyone here is pretty excited for that opportunity.”
This evening marks the start of a journey that they’re all looking forward to, and Connor Bedard making his highly anticipated NHL debut adds another narrative to the game – especially since the 18-year-old center has always idolized Crosby.
“Just the way he interacts with everyone, he’s such a good role model for kids and the hockey community in itself,” Bedard said before the matchup. “Of course, what he does on the ice is remarkable. Off the ice, it’s just as remarkable to see what he does. Getting to spend a little time with him, just seeing how much time he takes for everyone and treats everyone with respect, he just seems like an amazing person.”
National and even global media were present to hear Bedard speak, as the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft is projected to become the league’s next generational talent. He’s the youngest player to enter the league since 1984, coming off of a season where he collected 71 goals and 143 points in 57 regular-season games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League.
“I’m really excited and anxious to kind of get things going,” Bedard said. “It’s a very special moment… just can’t wait. There’s a little bit of nerves, not too many right now. I think yesterday I was really nervous, but today, I feel fine. Tonight, I’m sure there’ll be some butterflies. I don’t want to start the game being starstruck or anything. I want the warmup and anthem and everything to be that moment for me, and then once the game starts, like games I’ve played in the past, I want to be the best version of myself. Take it shift-by-shift and see how it goes.”
Tonight’s game is not only the hottest ticket in town, it’s the hottest ticket in the hockey world, and the Penguins are ready to bring their best game.
“We’re looking forward to starting off right away playing a much-improved team, a hungry team, and you know we’ve got to match that,” Karlsson said. “I feel like that’s what we’ve been waiting here for a month or so now, so it’s nice that it’s finally coming.”


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