There is no question the early season injury parade has dealt a blow to the Penguins. Arron Asham, Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek are all out with various ailments. But the biggest injury of them all is Jordan Staal, whose foot still hasn’t healed from the Montreal playoff series last summer. Staal is obviously an incredible talent, a superb defensive center that can score 20-plus a year. Still, could it be possible we underestimated #11’s value to the team?
The Pens are off to a humbling and bumbling 1-3 start, a depressing 0-3 in the new arena. Fans are teeing off on Marc-Andre Fleury and calling for Brent Johnson to man the net. The power play misses Sergei Gonchar more than Brett Favre misses the days you didn’t need a cell-phone camera to pick up chicks. Mike Comrie’s already in the dog house (healthy scratch Wednesday), and Evgeni Malkin needs to learn how to take a friggin’ penalty shot.
But the biggest problem I see is the absence of Staal. Without him, the penalty killing suffers. Without him, the second line is all out of whack. Without him, the cupboard is just about bare when Malkin is forced to play with Crosby. Without him…the Pens just aren’t an elite team.
I think we all had a pretty good idea how important Staal was to the lineup. But since he never missed a game, it was hard to quantify. Well, now we know. The Pens need him back, and healthy, ASAP. The question is, can they keep it together until he returns?