|Yeah... This F***ing Guy|
47 wins, 28 losses, 7 OTL, 101 points, 7th overall in the league
The Pittsburgh Penguins are arguably the best team in the world right now. Having gone from the most woeful team in the league to a perennial Stanley Cup contender. While the Penguins are an extremely lucky franchise to have drafted a couple premiere talents and two generational players. The Penguins also have a supreme front office headed by general manager Ray Shero who's made several excellent moves including bringing in head coach Dan Bylsma who had guided this team into an elite company. The only question for the Penguins this year will be can they win their second Stanley Cup in three years?
The Penguins are led up front by arguably the greatest player in the world today Sidney Crosby who's already conquered the hockey world before the age of 23. Crosby is literally such a good player I really don't feel the need to analyze him because you should already know he's a generational hockey talent that eclipses 100 points every season. The Penguins are blessed to not have just one generational talent but two in Evgeni Malkin who could also have a case made that he's arguably the greatest hockey player in the world. Malkin is an uber-talented Russian center who also routinely shatters the 100 point barrier on a yearly basis. What's really intriguing this season is that Crosby and Malkin who normally center the first and second line respectively might play together on the first line with Malkin on the wing. The Penguins are so stacked down the middle that there's a good chance Malkin will move to right wing to accommodate another premiere young center in Jordan Staal who the Penguins want to take a more offensive role this season. Staal was the de facto third line and shut down center for the Penguins. However the Penguins feel the 6-4 22-year old has too much offensive upside to not give him a role in the top six. Look for Staal to center the Penguins' second line when he returns in three months from a foot injury.
Chris Kunitz found his way to the Penguins last season to finally get Crosby a decent winger. Kunitz is a tenacious complimentary winger with a bit of a dark side to his game. Kunitz isn't a natural scorer but makes up for it with his hard work and defensive play. Pascal Dupuis is a depth winger who managed to click with Crosby after bouncing around the league. Dupuis is another hard working gritty player known for his board work and forechecking. It's not a certainty that he'll remain on Crosby's line through the season but he will start there. Mike Comrie was signed as a moneypuck acquisition this off-season to supplement the talent in the top nine. Originally intended to be the third line center Comie has been bumped up to the second line pivot in lieu of Staal's injury. Comrie is a versatile complimentary scorer who could shift to the wing if needed.
Matt Cooke has become one of the biggest villains in the game. The hard working grinder is known for throwing questionable hits and for shirking retribution. Cooke will be a fixture on the third line while providing some reasonable offensive pop. Likely occupying the opposite wing will be gritty grinder Aaron Asham who's known for his hard work along the boards and for being one of the best middleweight fighters in the league. Asham is another player who can pop a respectable amount of points for a bottom six player. Maxime Talbot has blossomed into a very effective two-way gritty forward and will likely now be the de facto defensive center with Staal moving up the depth chart.
Rounding out the forwards group is Michael Rupp who's a big bodied hard nosed power forward who who will be a fixture on the fourth line. Enforcer Eric Godard will be providing protection for the Penguins' star players. Tyler Kennedy is a fantastic bottom six grinder who displays endless energy on the ice and will bounce between the third and fourth line. Depth center Mark Letestu made the team out of training camp and will start out centering the third line. Youngster Eric Tangradi seemed likely to be a fixture in the Penguins' top six this year but was a cap causality. Although the Penguins may call him back up when injuries strike. Depth defensive player Craig Adams will look to factor into some games and help out on the penalty kill.
The Penguins had arguably the best off-season of any team in the league signing two of the most talented defensemen on the UFA market. Paul Martin has spent years as one of the most underrated players in the game as New Jersey's number one defenseman. Martin is a minute eating defenseman who can play in all three zones and excels in the offensive zone. Martin is going to be a huge addition to the Penguins powerplay and transition game. Zbynek Michalek has quietly been one of the best defensive defensemen in the game and will be the de facto shutdown defenseman for Pittsburgh. Michalek has limited upside in the offensive zone but will likely be paired with Martin to free up his offensive game.
The Penguins are blessed to have two premiere offensive defensemen under 25-years old. Kris Letang has become a intergal part of the Penguins' blue line since his arrival on the team three years ago. Letang is fast skating puck moving defenseman who is decent in virtually every aspect of the game. The 23-year old shows the potential have a break out season with his off-ice training and focus on improving on the power play. Alex Goligoski has developed into perhaps the best offensive defenseman on the Penguins' back end. The 25-year old puck moving defenseman defined himself last year with a 37 point campaign. It seems likely that Goligoski could shatter the 40 point barrier this year with greater opportunity for offensive minutes with the departure of previous de facto PP QB Sergei Gonchar this off-season.
Brooks Orpik is a premiere shutdown defenseman who also brings a physical style of hockey to the game. The 30-year old American defenseman is also a first tier shot blocker and brings a surprising offensive game for a defensive oriented player. Orpik will be one of the key defenders on the penalty kill for the Penguins while logging a lot of even strength minutes with one of the young offensive defensemen. Depth defender Deryk Engelland will likely take the sixth spot on the depth chart. Engelland is a physical defensive oriented defenseman who has no problem dropping the gloves to protect teammates. Ben Lovejoy is a puck moving defenseman who will likely be the Penguins' seventh defenseman.
Marc-Andre Fleury is an enigmatic goaltender who's been through the best of times and the worst of times in his hockey career. The 25-year old Fleury has already won a Stanley Cup and has the talent to be the best goaltender in the world on any given night. However he's prone to inconsistency while giving up soul crushing goals at the absolute worst time. Fleury had a very rocky season last year performing far below his expectations and got pulled in the Penguins' final game of the season. With the Penguins' new defensive core look for Fleury to have a bounce back season. Backing up Fleury will be veteran netminder Brent Johnson who's bounced around the leagues as a venerable number two. Look for Johnson to get 20-25 games this season.
The Penguins are arguably the best team in the league with a top three offense and a top five defense. This team's season doesn't begin until April. Look for them to come in somewhere between 1st-5th in the league.
BVB's Projected Opening Night Lineup
Chris Kunitz - 26 G/34 A 60 P
Sidney Crosby - 55 G/60 A 115 P
Pascal Dupuis - 16 G/20 A 36 P
Eric Tangradi - 10 G/18 A 28 P
Mike Comrie - 20 G/24 A 44 P
Evgeni Malkin - 49 G/55 A 104 P
Matt Cooke - 13 G/16 A 29 P
Mark Letestu - 7 G/14 A 21 P
Tyler Kennedy - 13 G/10 A 23 P
Michael Rupp - 10 G/10 A 20 P
Maxime Talbot - 3 G/7 A 10 P
Eric Godard - 0 G/3 A 3 P
Jordan Staal - 21 G/33 A 54 P
Aaron Asham - 9 G/13 A 22 P
Craig Adams - 0 G/9 A 9 P
Paul Martin - 4 G/33 A 37 P
Zybnek Michalek - 4 G/24 A 28 P
Brooks Orpik - 1 G/23 A 24 P
Kris Letang - 11 G/30 A 41 P
Alex Goligoski - 9 G/30 A 39 P
Deryk Engelland - 0 G/7 A 7 P
Ben Lovejoy - 1 G/15 A 16 P
Marc-Andre Fleury - 39-24-2 | 2.63 GAA | .910 Sv%
Brent Johnson - 11-5-1 | 2.80 GAA | .904 Sv%