We have all been so caught up in the return of our beloved Steelers that some people have forgotten that Penguins season gets underway very soon. Preseason starts in a short 9 days with the Pens taking on the Lighting and the regular season starts in less than a month on October 4th in Stockholm against the Sens. There are a number of things I am looking at as the season gets underway.
1.) Will Evgeni Malkin bounce back after a piss poor performance in the playoffs? I thought at first it was a load of shit that Malkin plays better without Crosby. I thought it was just that he finally turned on the switch and was just going to continue to dominate with Crosby's return. But durning the playoffs he slowed considerably and just did not come up big for us. Who knows what the outcome would have been if Malkin had been playing in the playoffs like he did in the regular season. Hopefully he can bounce back to form and take kids to school like he did last year.
2.) Am I the only one who is super pumped that Ryan Whitney is hurt? Ryan Shitney, what the hell happened to you? I thought he was going to be the next Gonchar with even better defensive skills. He gets the big check and starts shitting himself. He couldn't keep the puck in on the PP he was making bonehead passes and mistakes that led to a lot of scoring chances for opposing teams. Hopefully with the 3 months or so he is going to need to take a seat we can have a Marc Andre Fleury effect on him. The best thing that happened to Fleury was being able to sit back and watch how Conklin managed the game. If Shitney does that, he could get back to the level we need him to be at, and if not, he is some serious contention for trade bait. Him being out also leads me to my next point...
3.) Will this season be a breakout year for Kris Letang? I have loved Letang since I first set eyes on him (not in a gay way). He's got a great shot, great speed, solid skating, great puck handling, good D. You name it the kid has it. With Shitney on the bench Letang will get more time on the PP. I think his fear of shooting the puck that he had last year will go away. I think some of the rookie mistakes will go away. I'm not saying his game will be perfect, the kid is still young. I am going to say though watching him this past year and seeing that when he did make a mistake he hauled ass and did everything in his power to fix it, I'm sure any concerns or issues with his game will be resolved coming in to this season and he will be a big piece of the puzzle this year.
4.) Will Marc-Andre Fleury continue his outstanding play? As I mentioned before, the best thing that ever happened to MAF was getting hurt last year. He came back a smarter goalie with better stick skills and more control. He is one of if not the most athletic goalie in the league. When he gets his style and form perfected, not only will he make the routine great saves, but he can make the saves that no other goalie can make just because of his athletic abilities. My only concern is that in the past he has shown himself to get rattled and be a little inside his own head, if he can shake the head trash the man will be a top 5 goalie.
5.) Could it be .....Satan? I want to see what this guy, along with Fedotenko, can do playing on a line with Crosby or Malkin. They have produced in the past, I want to see how they are going to fit in the puzzle.
6.) Will losing Malone, Laraque, and Ruutu etc. be a big deal? I have never been big on Ryan Malone, I think he played great in the playoffs and everything but the truth his his production never really went up even when playing on lines with 2 of the best players in the world. Even a shithead like Robbie Brown looked like a hero when he was playing with Mario. Malone was a behemoth who sat in front of the net, get any big guy in front and Malkin and Crosby will get you 25 goals. I'm more concerned with losing our tough guys. I loved Ruutu, and Big Georges for that matter. I am just hoping that Cooke and fill in when Ruutu left off and Godard can handle the puck behind the net or an entire shift like Laraque could.
(This picture is on the Pens Blog, It is hilarious)
7.) Will God smack the Red Wings with an injury to Hossa? You should never wish ill will upon someone so I am not saying I want Hossa to get hurt. I'm just saying wouldn't it be kind of funny if he did get hurt. That or Detroit didn't even make the playoffs. That might be even better. He wanted to go to a team that he thought had a better chance of winning the cup and they don't even make the playoffs. Lets all cross our fingers.
8.) Will the Pens stay healthy? Fucking high ankle spains galore last season almost jepordized the year for the Pens. Injuries will happen, but I think that for the most part the team shouldn't have the issues of last year and be for the most part healthy.
9.) Will Jordan Staal get out of his offensive funk? Jordan Staal is my boy. He plays great defence, is great on the PK and has solid all around skill, not to mention he is still a teenager. He was getting great chances last year and coming up short. His rookie season the shots that he had going in would hit the post last year. He still got the scoring chances and he still played great all around hockey. He had a very soild playoffs and I think that showed his maturation as a player and I think he will feed off that for this season. The scary thing about Staal is that he is so young he will only put on more muscle and get bigger, faster and stronger. I just really hope he is not a salary cap casualty at the end of this season because I think he is going to have 30-40 goals when it is all said and done.
10.) Last but not least will the Pens repeat as Eastern Conference champs? Short answer, Yes they will. There is no reason why the Pens should not repeat. Sure they lost Hossa, but we didn't have him for the majority of the season. I think that there are no teams in the East who can match the Pens, if they come out of the gate swinging this season instead of lolligagging like they did last year, I think the Pens should end the regular season tops in the East. They should then be able to march back to the Cup Finals and hopefully take the whole damn thing.
So there you have it. I just had to let people know we have not forgotten the Pens and as the season quickly approaches. Also, let's all take a moment to realize that as a city Pittsburgh has some of the greatest sports teams in the world. I hope all of you reading this realize how lucky we are to be able to go to Heinz Field to watch the Stillers or Mellon Arena for a Pens game and yes even PNC park to watch the Succo's. This shit is so sweet. Let's go Pens.