Friday, October 2, 2009

2009 Pittsburgh Penguins Preview

Well folks, here it is. Your 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins. Stanley Cup Champions. You know what that needs now? Nothing. Sure you can bring it up if some jobber Caps fan want to talk a little smack but other than that every team has the same opportunity to win the cup. Clean slate, same goal. It takes skill, determination, hard work, and luck to win the Cup. But you know that. You should. Just because you have two of the best players in the world does not guarantee you anything in the NHL (see 2008). Lets get this party started.

If winning the Stanley Cup isn't enough reason for these players to play then they only need to think that this is the last year for Old Lady Mellon. What an arena. To be honest, I don't want the new arena. The Mellon is home, sure it is pretty crapy inside but that gives it character. being able to touch the roof while you sit in section F is what its all about. The sound that bounces off the walls as Sid beats Biron is like nothing else. Well, maybe hearing the Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarty chant afterwards is.

This team is almost an identical match to last years team. They are highly skilled with probably the best two players in the world. Add Jordan Staal as a third line center and you are the best team in the NHL down the middle. Both Sid and Geno will probably each have 100 points this year. One of them will most likely lead the NHL in scoring, but it is much more than that. You need complimentary players in order to make this team complete. You have to have the Max Talbot's, the Chris Kunitz's, and the Matt Cooke's to make this team what it is, make it run.

The Penguins lost their top notch defensive pair in Rob Scuderi and Hall Gill. Scuds went to LA to play and Gill went to Montreal to play (and has been given the A). This is going to be a huge void in the Penguins lineup. Alex Goligoski is going to be up with the big squad all season now and Ray Shero brought in Jay McKee to pick up some more slack. McKee is a stay at home Scuds-like defensemen. McKee is a little injury prone, but should be a good pick up for the Penguins.

Forwards

The Penguins have the best three lines down the middle of any team in the NHL. Bar none. Bing (33+70) and Geno (35+78) combined for 216 points last season and Jordan Staal was one of the best two way centers in the league right now. He got better in the playoffs and look for that to carry into the regular season.

On the wings, the Penguins look a lot the same as last year. Chris Kunitz (23+30) and Bill Guerin (21+27) will flank Bing on the first line and it gives him a lot of promise. Kunitz is not afraid to get into the corners and mix it up and Billy G is still able to put the puck in the net.



Big things will come from this line and with Bing expected to score more (some say 40 goals) this line could really take off.

The second line is going to be a little bit of a mystery. You know Ruslan Fedotenko is going to be beside Geno but with Max Talbot out for a few months there is no definite answer with who is going to fill that void? Dupuis? Kennedy? Tough call. Whoever is on that line needs to be the grit guy which makes me thing Kennedy could be in that spot. Hard for me to say something like that because of how good the third line is at what they do and the chemestry they have with each other. From what I am reading, however, it seems as if Dupuis is going to be on that wing. Dupuis can't finish very well but he will work hard and complete this line. Once Max comes back watch out. Is there a bigger player in crunch time than Talbot? For real.

Cooke-Staal-Kennedy= cash money.

The fourth liners are never the most cherished players in the eyes of the fans but they can make a difference in the season. Craig Adams is a great face-off man who took big ones last year, and Godard and Rupp are going to be on the team to mix it up and not let anyone mess with Bing or Geno. The fourth line sometimes gets some of the big goals, mix it up, get the dirty job done. Rupp is going to be a huge pickup for this team. Played some years in New Jersey where they have played some defense before and he is going to be huge on the PK with McKee, Staal, and Dupuis.

Defense

If there is one place that everyone is going to talk about being the weak spot of the Penguins team it is going to be the defensive end. The loss of Scuderi and Gill is a huge loss for the Penguins blue line and it will not easily be replaced. Scuderi stole games for this team during the regular season and playoffs. My favorite player. Just did what he had to do every game and didn't worry about being recognized for it. But he is gone. Nothing to do about it. Just get better.

Ray Shero knew he had some chips to play with down at WBS with Goligoski and Lovejoy but still went out and got some solid defensemen in the free agent market. He went out and got Jay McKee to solidify the veteran stay at home defensman spot that the Penguins need. He is injury prone but hey to win you got to gamble sometimes and this is a pretty safe bet.

The Penguins blue line is pretty set with Kris LeTang, Mark Eaton, Sergei Gonchar, Brooks Orpik, and Alex Goligoski. Gonchar is just a beast. He is what makes the power play tick. He knows when to take shots, he knows when to dish it off to Bing or Geno. Orpik is the physical presence that the team needs and will throw out the bigs hits as we as Penguin fans are accustom to. Eaton and LeTang are what they are. Eaton is a solid guy to have back there who improved his game two fold from the 2007-2008 season and LeTang is only getting better. His shot does not always find the net but he is young and is improving his offensive prowless. He got the big overtime winner against the Caps last year and I look for him to have a big season along with Staal.




The Penguins have some depth at the blue line with Ben Lovejoy and the recently signed Martin Skoula. Everyone knows that they are going to get some big minutes this year. If you think that the top six d-men are going to stay healthy all year then you have not watched hockey very much. They will be up and they will serve in that roll in my opinion, although there will be growing pains which is understandable.

Goaltending

Talk about shedding a stereotype. Last year Marc-Andre Fluery was said he couldn't win the big game, couldn't be consistant, didn't bring it all the time, well how about that.


MAF was just straight cash last year during the playoffs and really came into his own. I was also a big believer in MAF and the flower finally bloomed last year. He does not throw up flashy number like Broudeur, but then again he does not give up two goals in six seconds.

I will take big time game wins over stats any day and that is what MAF brings you. He gets you the big wings. Game seven against the Caps he was great, he got the game seven win in the Joe for the Cup so I have no doubt that MAF is one of the best in the game. He does not wilt in big games and that is what it is all about.

Many will bring up a lot of the soft goals that MAF is known for giving up at clutch times. That is one of the things that does worry people about MAF. If he can start to sure up those softies that he gives up then he will most defiantly move up into that next tier of goaltenders that he has not been able to get in yet, even with a Cup.

Garon is out and Brett Johnson is in for the back up goaltender. Johnson has been sort of a lifetime backup with a 111-94-13 career record in the NHL with a 2.63 GAA. To give MAF some spells is what it is all about for the backup goaltender here and Johnson should be up for the job.

Other Things

Luck is a huge part of an NHL hockey season. Staying healthy is going to be the biggest thing to look for in the season. If MAF goes down for an extended period of time can Johnson pick up the slack like Ty Conklin did a few years ago? If Bing goes down can Malkin put the team on his back at the same time? Nobody really know. That is why depth is so important in the NHL and why you can't take the role players for granted.

One injury can send you season into a tailspin that you can not recover from. The other thing is the "hangover". You know how hard it is to get to the finals let alone to lose one year and go back to win it the next. Is it going to be hard for this team to get motivated? I doubt it, but it is something to think about. Some Wings players have admitted that they found it hard to get into gear early in the season. Could it happen to the Pens?

What is Ray Shero going to do at the deadline? Nobody knows. He is such a good deadline guy that you almost expect him to work magic. Who is going to go? Some think Dupuis, some still think Staal is on the block for a winger. Injuries will most surely go into this but isn't it great to have good management.

One thing remains. This team is good. They are young. They are a year older. For this team the sky is the limit. I would not be surprised at all if the Penguins went back to the Stanley Cup and won it again. They are that good. They just can't rely on the streaks they have got over the past two seasons after slow starts. Just imagine if this team starts off well and then has a streak like that. Scary good.

I would talk about the rest of the division but Philly still has no goaltending, New Jersey is always solid and we still own Broudeur, the Rangers have a whole new team which will get the same results, and the Islanders are still some time away from being good...

It is going to be interested. Hang on.

Lets Go Pens.

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