5 questions at the All-Star break

The Pittsburgh Penguins have reached the All-Star break riding a wave of victories. After dropping six straight, the boys had some fun with Duct Tape and put together a seven game winning streak. Isn't Duct Tape amazing?

With half a season to go and the Penguins sitting in 5th place in the Eastern Conference (as of 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning), many questions remain with the team and how the rest of the season could play out.

5. Does Ray Shero make a trade before the deadline?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Malkin and Neal have both had incredible seasons thus far. 71, 18 or both players have had at least a point during this seven game winning streak. It looked like a no brainer Shero would shake things up during the six game losing streak. Things may look peachy now, but you know Shero is always keeping an eye on the market. I think the Pens need another player they can count on to put pucks in the net besides two guys on the same line. Names like Zach Parise and Ales Hemsky have been thrown around the trade rumor mill recently. My gut tells me Shero pulls the trigger again for a scorer before all is said and done.

4. Can Geno win the scoring title?

I must break you. Drago, aka Evgeni Malkin, is destroying it right now. Leading the scoring race with 58 points and just 26 goals, Malkin averages 1.38 points/night. Before Crosby got injured last season, he was making it rain points averaging 1.61 points/night. Very comparable between the two. However, much like the team he plays for, Malkin struggles against Atlantic Division teams. At the break, Malkin only has 12 points against teams in the Penguins' division. Geno and the Pens as a team need to start winning divisional games. I think the Pens will do just that with Malkin winning the scoring title.

3. Can Flower carry the load?

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The Pens have won seven straight, and so has Marc-Andre Fleury. With a record of 26-12-2, Flower ranks in the top 10 among NHL goaltenders in six different categories (games player: 5th place with 42, wins: 3rd place with 26, goals against: 10th place with 93, goals against average: 9th place at 2.25, minutes played: 7th place with 2,484...and yes penalty minutes he ranks 10th with 2 PIM). The problem I see is Flower is on pace for a career-high in starts. Back-up Brent Johnson hasn't been as sharp lately, forcing Bylsma's hand in keeping MAF between the pipes. He's hot now, but how quick will that glove hand and kick save be down the stretch? It will be interesting to see how his body holds up.

2. When will 87 return to the lineup?

I posed the question this way as opposed to "can" Sidney Crosby return. He already did once, and we all feel like can again. The team rallied behind him with the Duct Tape which kicked off this current winning streak, and he's been back to the specialists to get treatment. The Pens are 7-0-0 since he spoke to the media. Maybe that's it. Leave him off the ice and when the Pens finally lose again, just stick Sid in front of the microphones again. When will Sidney Crosby return? Only he will know the answer to that question.

1. Will the Penguins win the Stanley Cup?

My prediction at the start of this season was Pens vs. Kings in the Stanley Cup finals, with the Pens winning their fourth Cup. The previous four questions above are major concerns of mine whether this team can make it to the finals now, let alone the playoffs. Two weeks ago, this team wasn't even in the playoffs. It looks, however, things have turned for the better...for now. Teams get hot. Teams get cold. The same goes for players. It's all about consistency. The Penguins lost that earlier this month, and haven't found it at all within their division. I hope like all fans that the Penguins raise another banner at CONSOL Energy Center, and not a pointless banner to fill the rafters and make a team look accomplished like the Washington Capitals. But I need to see more from this team. Yes, more. This is just seven games folks. It doesn't erase the previous six games. It doesn't change the fact the Penguins are a mediocre .500 against Atlantic Division teams, with three of them in a playoff spot. It should remain fresh in all of our minds this season just how quick things can turn south. Show me consistency over the remainder of the season and the Pens still stand a shot.


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