The only challenge left that’s worth working for this regular season is the top seed in the East, we have no interest in the cursed President’s Trophy. Only two teams remain capable of catching the Penguins: Montreal and Boston. Montreal played last night and for the rest of the season they will have the same amount of games left as the Pens, and they play each other Wednesday. The Canadians have 6 games left and the Penguins have seven points in hand. That leaves a magic number of 5 for the Pens to clinch the top seed in the East (Canadians can earn a maximum of 12 points). The same holds for the Bruins, they have 7 games remaining following the postponement of their game yesterday, but there is an 8 point difference between the Pens and Bruins. Thus that magic number is down to 6. By the time the Pens/Bruins game ends on Friday, the Pens could cut it to 4 points.
Oh also, Sidney Crosby, James Neal, and Paul Martin all resumed skating yesterday. Sid rocked the incredibly fashionable full-cage mask, Neal has been symptom free for a while now and will probably be back in the lineup on Wednesday, and Paul-Mart wore a tracksuit.
And the Penguins were 3-0 last week on a jaunty drive through the American Southeast. In the absence of so many key players the new acquisitions really raised the bar, as such we are going to dedicate this Stud of the Week to those who weren’t here last year.
Excluding the obvious (Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz) you would have a hard time naming a better Penguin last night than Beau Bennett. All he does is hustle for loose pucks, make crisp passes, and find spots from which he can launch a puck, or at the very least force a team to abandon a double team on Geno and or Nealer, the league’s reigning MVP and perhaps its second best pure sniper. That’s awesome.
He’s got points in 4 of his last 5, and his minutes have been steadily increasing. He played over 15 and a half minutes last night, probably the ideal figure for a #6 forward, and the Pens will have 2 more full years with him on his current rookie salary figure after this one. That’s also awesome.
And perhaps even more important, the Pens almost don’t even need that much scoring, they’re miles ahead of pretty much every other team in scoring so far this year, so if you ask me, they don’t need to give up a few defensive prospects to bring in a veteran scorer on the back swing of his career (Jarome Iginla).
It’s finally here, we are actually previewing the actual guys who will be donning the Pittsburgh Penguins sweater this year. Back on Monday we previewed the goalies, on Tuesday we shifted our focus to defense, today we are talking wingers, and then the centers, before finally making our BOLD predictions for the year.
We’ve attempted to look at each player from a point/counterpoint perspective–that’s not to say that we are going to totally disagree on each player, far from it, we want to examine both the statistical expectations for each guy AND express our “feel” or read of the player.
We hope you enjoy and we would love for you to get back to us with your thoughts and feelings. If you haven’t read them yet, please check out our series on Advanced Hockey Statistics: Goals Versus Threshold, Points per 60 Minutes, and Player Usage Charts (including Corsi numbers). Get the business after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »