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Author Topic: ESPN ranks Pens No. 1  (Read 946 times)
Captain Chaos
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« on: Jul 31, 2008 at 18:48 »

Hey, ESPN covers hockey! Who knew?

http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/columns/stor...cott&id=3504426

The top 5

1. Pittsburgh Penguins
Never mind the absence of Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone, Jarkko Ruutu and Georges Laraque, the Penguins still have the most formidable lineup down the middle of any team in the NHL, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, plus an emerging elite netminder in Marc-Andre Fleury.

2. Montreal Canadiens
Many folks will pick the Habs to win the East next season, but Carey Price will have to prove he's over this spring's playoff meltdown before we hop on that train. Sundin will make that bandwagon pretty crowded if he signs on with the Habs.

3. Philadelphia Flyers
What do Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Braydon Coburn, Daniel Briere, Kimmo Timonen et al do for an encore after going from 30th overall in 2006-07 to a berth in the Eastern Conference finals? How about a return trip?

4. New York Rangers
The Rangers have been flirting with contender status for three seasons now, and they'll have a dramatically different look with Wade Redden, Nikolai Zherdev and Dmitri Kalinin in and Jaromir Jagr, Shanahan (we assume) and Martin Straka out. Different, but not necessarily better.

5. Washington Capitals
OK, the defense is still a little suspect and there's Jose Theodore in net, but this Caps team can light it up with any team in the league.


 
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PghSteel-43
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« Reply #1 on: Aug 02, 2008 at 00:02 »

I'm with ESPN on this one.  At the same time, that doesn't mean I don't have concerns going into this season, that's for damn sure.....

1) If Fleury goes down for a significant period of time, is Sabourin capable of holding down the fort?  He looked solid at times last season and at other times he looked lost.  He definately was no Ty Conklin.  It's all roses and sunshine until Fleury blows out a knee and is out for a month or month and a half.

2) How will Satan perform on and off the ice?  I would rather have seen Vrbata or Husselius in a Pens jersey, but what can you do?  Hopefully he produces.  I'm not stating he won't or that he can't, but his questionable attitude which could easily destroy a young hockey team, his rumored knee problems and his lack of production last season is making me have a wait and see attitude when it comes to Satan.  ESPN and Satan will have to forgive me for not jumping for joy and marching a parade down Grant Street when this signing was announced.  One plus, he will be playing next to the best playmaker in the game, a player who could have made Blair Chapman look like Pavel Datsyuk .

3) Will Fleury continue to play at the level he played at when he returned from his injury and up until the Detroit series?  He just received that nice contract, hopefully he continues to flourish and does not fall back on how he played in that Detroit series, which was pretty bad minus one well played game.  Hopefully he will start next season looking like a former #1 overall pick.

4) Will Ryan Whitney play like he did in the Detroit series or will he play like he did during the whole regular season and part of the playoffs?  At $4.5 a year and being a former #5 overall pick, hopefully he learns how to round out his game instead of looking like a lost puppy in front of his own net.  More offensive production would be nice, but at this point I'm just hoping the guy can play better in his own zone.  That should be his first priority as a defenseman.  Whitney playing better is key in my opinion.

While those are my main concerns and ALL teams have them, I still have to agree with ESPN.  When all is said and done, I still feel we are the best team in the east.  Putting all homerism aside, I have a hard time making the argument that the Flyers and the Canadiens are the better teams.
« Last Edit: Aug 02, 2008 at 00:05 by PghSteel-43 » Logged
Captain Chaos
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« Reply #2 on: Aug 02, 2008 at 21:15 »

Good post PghSteel-43. I do think you're being a bit hard on Fleury for the Detroit series. I think the ENTIRE TEAM entered that series like deer in the headlights, losing the first 2 in Detroit. I think the Pens losing to the Wings had more to do with the Wings being a better team than one players (Fleury, Malkin) poor performance.

I agree with you about Satan. I do believe waiting on Hossa cost us a nice "first day" free agent and Shero was left scrambling. I can't figure out why Shero didn't make a play for Husselius. I realize he probably wanted a longer contract than one year, but he's also younger than Satan. I was hoping for more of a younger player on the up-side of his career rather than an older one heading south.

I'm one of the few (if not only) poster here who actually likes Whitney. I realize he is what he is. An offensive-defenseman. Just because he's big doesn't mean he's physical. Can he improve defensively? Most definitely. Going back to 06-07 he had 14 goals - 49 assists and was +9 on the year. If he can get back to that form and build on the lessons he learned from his struggles last season, I have no doubt he'll be one of our top d-men. Having said all that, I still think changes will be coming to the defensive unit. As much as Shero says "you can't have too many NHL defensemen" it's going to be difficult to keep all 8 or even 9 players happy with their playing time. Something's gotta give. Maybe he just ships Sydor out for a 7th round pick or does something huge like trading a Whitney or Letang for a top winger to pair with Sid. Who knows? All I know is, we're heavy on the D.

Regarding the depth at goal, I don't like Sabourin at all. He's too inconsistent to be a solid NHL backup. I hated letting Thibault go in favor of Sabourin last year. Thank God Conklin came in and played way beyond his abilities when MAF went down. But in the salary cap NHL, you have to pick and choose where you spend your money and Sabourin was the only goalie signed to a cap friendly number.
« Last Edit: Aug 02, 2008 at 21:21 by Captain Chaos » Logged

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PghSteel-43
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« Reply #3 on: Aug 03, 2008 at 09:49 »

By no means am I putting the full blame on Fleury or any other particular player for that matter.  I agree completely that Detroit was simply the better team, but at the same time that doesn't mean players get off the hook for playing bad hockey.  I figure if I can praise Whitney for playing better hockey in that series, I can call out guys who were playing bad hockey in that series.  Fleury for instance let in some really soft goals in that series and at times he was falling back on his old habits, rebound control being one of them.  Consistency has been an issue with the guy in the past.  I think many forget that the guy also struggled coming out of the gates in the 07-08 season and only choose to remember how he played when he returned from his injury.  There is no doubt he played great after being pressured by Ty Conklin, but before his injury he wasn't playing great hockey.  Consistency, consistency, consistency.  It's key for Fleury if he wants to firmly establish himself as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and I'm sure he's capable of doing so.

As for Whitney.  I do like the guy.  From what I've heard and seen, he's a great teammate.  He also played a great 06-07 season.  I felt/thought he rounded out his game beautifully during that season.  Then came 07-08.  While I'm not expecting Whitney to turn into Scott Stevens, I do expect him to throw a check every once in a while.  I do expect him to make it hell for players parking themselves in front of Fleury.  I do expect him to not shy away from going into the corners and getting a little physical.  I'm not expecting him to start throwing bone shattering open-ice hits nor am I expecting him to become one of the most feared fighters/hitters in the league, but I do expect to see a better defensive game from a guy who is a former #1 pick and who we are paying $4.5 million a year.  While I realize he's an offensive defenseman (and even those numbers dropped), your first priority as a defenseman is to play defense, then chip in on offense if your capable and your chance is there for the taking.  I still feel Whitney can turn his game around and play like he did in 06-07, but he has to show me first before I'm sold.  Then again if he doesn't show it, he will be gone.

When it comes to future trades/roster moves.  I think Whitney will be gone long before Letang.  IMO, Letang showed great strides this season.  His defensive/physical game in particular.  He was throwing some beautiful hits and while he was caught out of position on a few occasions, he's still very young and raw.  He also contributes on shootouts.  I think Letang will be here for many years to come.  Goligoski and Letang are the future defense for the Penguins.  Whitney on the otherhand is coming up on 26 years old and is still showing a lack of consistency.  He was called out by Therrien for his lack of physical play and his name was surrounded by trade talks during this whole offseason.  The guy has to rebound this season and prove he's worth keeping around.  Sydor will be gone in my opinion.  He's not happy being on this team and understandably so, he won't play nearly as much as he would on another team.  Like you said, either trading him for a late pick or packaging him with someone else (Scuderi?) and getting something extra in return is very probable.  They really don't have a choice when it comes to getting rid of Sydor.

Finally, our backup situation.  I tend to keep in mind that it may not be the Penguins who simply "let" these guys walk, but that many of these backups decide to leave in order to see if they can get the opportunity to get more playing time elsewhere.  I wasn't happy to see Conklin leave for $700,000, but I also keep in mind that he may have a better opportunity to play more in Detroit.  The same goes for Thibault in Buffalo.  It takes two to tango and maybe both Conklin and Thibault didn't feel like dancing in Pittsburgh.  Much like with Sydor, I can't say that I blame them.  Eitherway, it's looking like we are going with Sabourin as our #2.  Like I said in my original post, at times he looked good and at other times he looked lost.  
« Last Edit: Aug 03, 2008 at 19:12 by PghSteel-43 » Logged
PghSteel-43
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« Reply #4 on: Nov 22, 2008 at 00:29 »

He was throwing some beautiful hits.


And apparently he's having no problem doing it this season, case in point, the Atlanta game on Thursday night...

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