The Pittsburgh Penguins have begun the quest for a Stanley Cup three-peat.
Let’s look at some early indicators and see where the Pittsburgh Penguins stand.
Goaltending has been a hot topic ever since Marc-Andre Fluery left to become the started in Las Vegas. No offense to the Flower here, but this does not change the Pens chance to three-peat. Yes, we need a competent backup, and yes injuries can (always) change everything. But the simple fact is (as I have said before) Matt Murray is the perfect goaltender for these Pens. His ability to absorb pucks and play calmly in position at all times makes our system work.
One of the biggest early indicators (and only issue) that I see so far, is that the current backup Antti Niemi is not good enough at rebound control. I watched a lt of his highlights from past seasons – he plays a lot like MAF. Agile, making big saves, but giving up big rebounds. As a consequence, the Pens play a bit more frantically around him and have a bit of trouble getting the breakout going. Simply put, the Pens are not nearly as good with Niemi in the net. Given the high likelihood that backup goal-tending will be critical at some point between now and the Cup – this is a concern.
A lot was made in offseason about the need for the Pens to replenish the losses of bottom six forwards. One of the good early indicators here is that things don’t look so bad. There were a few missteps to start the season, but the acquisition of Ryan Reaves is looking like sheer genius so far. The fourth line in particular is really starting to grind down low and look more in sync. While there is still room for improvement, I think the play of the bottom six has greatly lowered the urgency to make changes there.
Not much to be said here. Good to see the Wreckin’ ball behind the bench as a new assistant, although I don’t have a feel for his abilities or style yet. Suffice to say, I’m a huge Mike Sullivan fan, so as long as he is behind the bench, I think we are good.
Ugh. Blechh. Need I continue? I don’t know what kind of joke the league is playing on everyone. I get it – they want to cut down on slashing, especially after Sidney Crosby exploded Marc Methot’s pinky. But c’mon man. This is one of the early indicators of the whole league. The current “standard” is like some kind of ironic punishment by an arrogant teacher. “You think you can get away with a slash? I’ll show you...”
Ok, league – we get the point. No more liberties with the sticks up high. Here’s an idea – call the game according to the rules, instead of changing the rules to make a point. I am not sure what’s worse, seeing every wave of a stick or tap on the shin guard get called as a penalty, or knowing all of this will be a distant memory come playoff time. It’s ridiculous that the game is called so wildly differently in October – than it is in May. C’mon man.