It’s that time of year everyone, Penguins Hockey is Back! So before we all sit back and enjoy Crosby and the team take on the Dallas Stars tonight check out five points you will want to watch for this season.
Pens ready to make the Kessel Run
There are plenty of new faces within the Penguins roster, but none may be as interesting as five time 30 goal scorer Phil Kessel. The acquisition of Kessel peaked not only the interest of the Penguins faithful but that of its players as well.
Malkin had this to say shortly after the trade.
I know him as a sniper. He likes to score goals. He’s flying every game. I think if he plays with Sid, he can score 50 goals at least. He has everything.
And if you think other players throughout the league don’t expect greatness look at this quote from Chicago Blackhawks Captain Johnathan Toews when asked who he thinks Kessel will play with. (SId or Geno)
Hopefully they can’t figure it out either. If they do, then we’re all in trouble. That’s an overdose of skill, if Kessel ends up playing with one or the other.
Kessel brings a look to the Penguins that we have not seen in quite some time. To add, the team now has depth within its forward ranks. While Pascal Dupuis is out 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury and Eric Fehr out from his surgery we are still going to see a lineup that consists of Crosby, Kunitz, Malkin, Kessel, Perron, Hornqvist, Bennett, Bonino, Sprong, Cullen, Plotnikov and Farnham. Much more impressive compared to the opening night rosters of the last few seasons.
Sprong into Action
While all eyes will be on Kessel to start the year the Penguins 2015 Second Round Draft pick is making his NHL debut at 18 years old tonight. A player which many teams wrote off due to poor interviews and a conception of poor defense, Daniel Sprong showed this pre-season why the Penguins made the right choice and that he is ready for prime time.
The Penguins are playing it safe with Sprong at the moment though. He is filling in a need due to injuries in the line-up and is able to play 9 games before his Entry Level Contract kicks in. If Sprong truly wants to stay in the NHL then he needs to continue his hard work and strong play from the pre-season.
Be Patient with the Penguins Defense.
We all heard the reports during training camp, “The Penguins defense is going to be a problem.” While it’s hard to imagine this defense being capable of showing Championship caliber hockey or even playoff caliber, Fans need to sit back and trust GM Jim Rutherford and HC Mike Johnston. The need for another defender isn’t dire at the moment and for all we know something may “click” within the first few days or weeks of the season which proves not being hasty was a good move by JR.
However, with that all said, if the defense struggles in the first month of the season do not be surprised to see moves made by early to mid November to obtain a quality top 4 defender.
Defense Hinges on Letang
There are not many teams who can say they have a Norris Trophy Caliber defensemen like Kris Letang. He is one of the top 5 defenders in the league and when Kris is on his game his intensity and skill are quite a sight to see.
With Paul Martin gone Letang will see a bump in leadership duties, it will be on him to help mentor and lead by example. While players like Ben Lovejoy and Rob Scuderi have been around for awhile and can help in that department, players like Dumoulin, Clendenning and Maatta are still young and may need some nurturing throughout the year.
There is no doubt that Letang is ready for this role, we just have to hope that he is able to stay healthy all season to help lead this team to greatness once again.
Can Crosby Score 100 points?
With the NHL evolving, last season saw a player win the Art Ross Trophy (Awarded to the NHL player who leads the league in scoring points at the end of the regular season) with only 87 points
This is the first time since 1967/68 (with the exception of the two shortened seasons 1994/95 & 2012/13) that the top scorer had less than 90 points. To add, we have only witnessed the top scorer getting less then 100 points 6 times (including the shortened seasons) in that same span.
While goaltenders and defenders have improved over the years it’s hard to imagine that we would see another year so quickly where no player scores 100+ points.
Crosby along side Phil Kessel will be a monster of a duo and there is little doubt that Crosby will break the 100 point plateau as long as he stays healthy.
Tonight at 8:30 EST the 82 game grind begins. Are you ready?
It’s A Great Day For Hockey
– Robert Slavinsky