Stacking Up For Another Run At Stanley

How many times have you caught yourself counting down the days until October 6? Enough not to share like myself? We're in the home stretch of this summer break before heading into the 2011-2012 season, and what better way to kill some more time before the puck drops than evaluate where the Penguins stand.

Last time I checked we still have two of the best players in the NHL. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on the ice make the Penguins an automatic contender for the Stanley Cup this season. You have to question the state of their health coming off season ending injuries. If you haven't seen the videos of Malkin working out in Russia, check them out on the Penguins website. It makes me want to drop what I'm doing and just start doing push ups. He is scary focused. I won't be surprised if he gets near the 100 point mark this season. Expect a different Geno on the ice.

As for Sid, his off season training has been much less documented. Last we heard any credible update on Crosby's status was mid-July when his agent said he had resumed on-ice workouts. We still haven't heard if he has been cleared for physical contact or will be on the ice when the Pens open training camp next month. While we can all question his status physically, you can't question where he stands mentally. He was ready to give it a go at the end of last season, pushing it to the limits until symptoms returned. I'm sure staying out of the media's crosshairs in Canada is allowing him to concentrate on the steps he needs to get back.

Marc-Andre Fleury will once again be a wall in goal this season. I don't see him getting off to the shaky start we all remember when everyone started saying Ray Shero should trade him. The Flower will leave the normal amount of juicy rebounds and make the same acrobatic saves as he always has. The blue line is returning this season which should make Fleury feel comfortable coming into the season. And if things get out of line, Brent Johnson will just knock someone out again.

As for the new faces to put on the Black and Vegas Gold, I can't say I'm too impressed but rather filled the openings with common pieces. That isn't a knock on Steve Sullivan, Steve MacIntyre or Jason Williams. I think Shero was right to re-sign Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis, then signed some other players. Sullivan is suppose to help us on the power play and MacIntyre was picked up in the enforcer role. I'm more looking forward to a healthy Dustin Jeffrey and having some wiggle room with extra cap space by Jedi Shero leaving the door open for a late season move.

So where do the Penguins stack up against the rest of the NHL? We'll make the playoffs and make a run at the Atlantic Division as always, even with the division in my opinion much stronger than last season. To me the biggest factors come down to keeping healthy, scoring on the power play and discipline. Too many time the Penguins shot themselves in the foot taking a penalty that had Badger Bob rolling in his grave. The 0 for eons the Pens went on the power play can't happen again, and if the two-headed monster stays off IR we'll be solid.


MrChady said...

As long as Crosby does not have any symptoms before training camp, Shero said that he would be cleared for contact to start training camp.

Damian Romano said...

The best off season moves for the Pens will be getting a healthy Sid and Geno. From there they can work on integrating the new guys, work on the PP, and I think it's nothing but good things from there.

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