Not having Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to begin the season means a transformation for the Penguins. This transformation is to a strong defensive tone starting with this opening game.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan realizes he can't replace the 2.4 average points that Crosby and Malkin produced. So look for Pittsburgh to rely on structure and an emphasis on defense. The Penguins have good defensive depth. That was made obvious when they sent down Pierre-Olivier Joseph, who I regard as a very good defensive prospect.
Sullivan was quoted saying this, ''If we're going to have success, we're going to have to play a stringy game. It's going to take a collective effort and attention to detail. With some of the game-breakers that aren't in our lineup right now, we can't look to those guys to be the difference. We have to build a team game that's going to give us the best chance to be successful.''
The Penguins led the NHL in goals against average and save percentage during March. Their goalie, Tristan Jarry, is coming off a strong regular season where he went 25-9-3 with a 2.75 goals against average.
Tampa Bay has the No. 1 goalie in the NHL in Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning also will be breaking an entire new third line.