This season will be one of much unknown for the Pittsburgh Penguins and I was preparing to write a very large and detailed analysis of the team and their chances this season. I have to admit though that I have just recently gotten home from work and do not feel up to writing something so indepth. So here is a no frills analysis.
The team: The core of the group has returned once again and are another year older and with that, another year better. They lost Max Talbot, which in regards to team chemistry is a big loss. However, they added Steve Sullivan who is known for two things in his NHL career…..scoring goals and getting injured. If Sullivan stays healthy, he could easily score 30 goals.
Sidney Crosby: I will make it clear that I would rather see Sidney sit out and get better than play and we potentially lose him for good. I think he will play half a season at most but in those few games he does play, he will dominant as he did prior to the concussion. Crosby is just not a great player but in great shape and I think that will be key in his recovery and eventual return to the team.
Flower: I think this is the season Marc-Andre Fleury is going to finally be nominated for the Vezina trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender. The growth of Fleury has been phenomenal and last season I truly believe he should have been a finalist for the Hart Memorial trophy for NHL MVP. Where would the Penguins have been without Flower last season?
Special Teams: The penalty killing was near the top of the NHL rankings all last season and they should remain in that area this year as they added Richard Park to shore up the loss of Max Talbot. The powerplay should rank much higher this seaosn with a healthy Staal, Malkin, a full season of James Neal, the arrival of Steve Sullivan and the return of Sidney Crosby.
I expect the Penguins to top 100 points and make it to the Conference finals this season. If Crosby comes back strong and Fleury continues his ascent into the upper echelon of goalies and if Evgeni Malkin can regain his Art Ross form….this is going to be a tough team to beat.