2011-2012 Preview: Pittsburgh Penguins

Posted: September 23, 2011 by Realdeal in Pittsburgh Penguins, Season Preview
Tags: , , , , ,

Last season: 49-25-8, 106 points, 4th East, lost in the first round to Tampa Bay (4-3).

Additions: LW Steve MacIntyre, D Alex Picard, RW Steve Sullivan, D Boris Valabik, RW Jason Williams

Losses: LW Chris Conner, RW Eric Godard, LW Mike Rupp, C Max Talbot

Offense:  Obviously Sidney Crosby is the go-to guy on the Penguins, but with his status uncertain for the season, it means other players will have to pick up the slack.  Crosby was having a great year before he was derailed, scoring 32 goals and 66 points in 41 games.  Evgeni Malkin missed 39 games last year, including 29 games (plus playoffs) with an ACL tear.  While he was in the lineup, Malkin was still effective, netting 15 goals and 37 points.  The Pens will need him to be healthy this season in order to compete in the tough Eastern Conference.  Jordan Staal missed the first half of the season, but was the team’s #1 centerman down the stretch.  His shutdown play helped ease the losses of Crosby & Malkin.  Chris Kunitz finally produced (23 goals) what Pittsburgh wanted when they acquired him from Anaheim two seasons ago.  Last year’s acquisition James Neal only scored one goal as a Penguin, but had 22 total, including his time with Dallas.  Tyler Kennedy used his increased ice time to score 21 goals.  Steve Sullivan could prove to be a solid addition, provided he stays healthy he can still score 20 goals.  Rookie Mark Letestu started off hot, scoring 7 goals and 17 points in his first 38 games, but only finished 14-13-27 in 64 games.

Defense: Kris Letang provides the offensive punch from the blueine.  The four year vet broke out and scored 50 points, good for top ten in the league by defensemen.   Paul Martin is a steady defenseman who can play both on the powerplay and penalty kill.  Zybnek Michalek is a strong defender and a shot blocking machine.  Brooks Orpik is a hammer, among the league leaders in hits in the past six seasons.

Goaltending: Marc-Andre Fleury had his lowest goals against average of his career (2.32), while winning 36 games with a .918 save percentage.  Stats don’t tell the entire story though, as Fleury struggled early, but when Crosby and Malkin were both out, he took over, playing lights out down the stretch.  Fleury helped keep the team afloat and in the thick of the Atlantic Division race, which the Penguins narrowly missed winning.  Fleury’s backup, Brent Johnson, is most known for breaking Rick DiPietro’s face.  However, Johnson played well when called upon, winning 13 games with a 2.17 GAA and a save percentage of .922.

Standout Player:  Marc-Andre Fleury
Fleury kept the team alive in the second half of the season while the team was missing it’s top two centermen.  Even with their biggest point producer out of action for the forseeable future, the team still has some offensive weapons.  However, another great season by Fleury will mean the offense won’t be relied on as much.

Prediction: 1st Atlantic, 2nd Eastern Conference
Fresh off their strong finish to the second half coupled with the return of Malkin means the team will be strong once again this year.  Thinking here is that it’ll be a two horse finish for the Atlantic and Pittsburgh will edge the Flyers by a nose.


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