Thursday, October 26, 2006
So what are the Pens doing right ??
The easy answer to the question, at least to the NHL layman, would be "Crosby and Malkin, silly".
OK, you'd be blind if that at least weren't a significant reason for the Pens' 5-3 start.
But if you're looking for the complete answer, there are many other pieces to the puzzle.
In order (my .02 anyways);
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1. Goaltending - Marc-Andre Fleury has been having an excellent season to date. His 2.65 GAA is ranked 17th among goalies, and his save percentage of .923 is ranked 10th. He's not constantly flailing out of position, allowing the easy tip-ins. He's not dropping to the butterfly so quickly. His rebounds, while still giving up a bit too many, are being deflected away to the boards, as opposed to directly in front of the net.
2. Defense - On what has been the main problem with the Pens for the last several years, the Pens defense so far has allowed 2.75 goals per game, good enough for 12th in the league. The amount of times that the aforementioned tap-ins occur is dramatically down. They're still giving up 32.5 shots per game, but that average is coming down.
3. Special Teams - Dramatic improvements in both special teams, some would say, is the biggest improvement for the Pens. The power play is now ranked 4th in the league, and the penalty kill is up to the 11th best. In my opinion, the penalty kill is looking outstanding, so much so that I'd predict that this unit will be among the top 10 for the year. That's an amazing turnaround in one year.
And yeah, sure, the terror twins of Crosby and Malkin are pretty good too.
The Pens embark on what turns out to be an important 4 game road trip starting Saturday night in Philly. I'm not concerned about the Pens coming out sharp, the Flyer fans will take care of that by themselves. Look for some serious hitting that night, as I'm sure the Flyers will attempt to get under the skin of Sid and Geno.
It's the next 3 games after the Flyers game that concerns me. The Pens have rarely played well out West. Combine that with the fact that 2 out of the 3 games out there will come against among the best teams in the NHL in San Jose and Anaheim.
This road trip will be a true test where this team really is.
Karl Stewart was placed on waivers and claimed by the Blackhawks. No big loss to me, I've liked the energy that Thorburn has been showing on the 4th line. The only unfortunate thing to me was that they placed Saborin on waivers to make room for Stewart, and now he's gone too.
Eric Cairns is on his way to WBS for a conditioning assignment. His situation is very interesting. You've got Cairns probably playing in WBS for maybe two weeks. Brooks Oprik is already beginning to practice with the Pens, albeit lightly practicing. If Orpik comes back, say prior to the West Coast games begin, Letang will be on his way home. However, when Cairns is ready, what will the Pens do then ?? Scuderi/Melichar trade ?? Cairns trade ??
We shall see....