Regular Season: The Penguins lit up the competition in the Eastern Conference, outscoring their opposition by almost a full goal per game. Sidney Crosby looked like a sure bet to win the Art Ross, but getting hit in the mouth with a puck off the stick of a teammate derailed that and forced him to miss some time. He still finished tied for 3rd in team scoring and dragged linemate Chris Kunitz into the top 10 as well. The finished the season with the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Playoffs: After Marc-Andre Fleury tried to give the first round series away, he was replaced by Thomas Vokoun and the Penguins ship was righted. They beat the upstart Islanders in 6 games, and then dispatched the limping Senators in 5 games. The pin in the Penguins’ balloon turned out to be the Boston Bruins, whose depth allowed them to sweep the Penguins out of the playoffs in the conference final.
Ready To Make The Jump:
BIG 3 FACTORS
1. Healthy 87: As long as he is playing hockey, there will always be questions about his ability to play a full season. His is without a doubt the best player in the game when he is on his game, and 70+ games will be a bonus in any year.
2. Vets Didn’t Work : Much was made when the Penguins brought in Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray at the trade deadline. They added depth, but in the cases of Morrow and Murray especially, didn’t really help them much. Iginla was solid but didn’t really find his groove.
3. What’s Up With Flower: Vokoun filled in nicely, but he won’t carry a team to the Stanley Cup. What happened to Fleury, and can he really get his mojo back. He never was one that filled you with confidence, and that will be even tougher to gain from his teammates now, no matter what they say publicly.
PROGNOSIS: Fleury will be the number one goalie again, and as long as he stops treating the puck like a hand grenade with the pin pulled, the Penguins will be a factor in the post-season. As long as Crosby is healthy as well.
PREDICTION: 1st Metropolitan Division
We have been and will be previewing every NHL team ahead of Training Camp which for most teams will begin on Sept 11th. As a twist, we will be unveiling our teams in reverse order to how I predict they will finish in the standings. Here is the schedule (you can click on a team name to see the preview for that team):