The Penguins are coming off another undefeated week of hockey with back to back wins over the teams with the second and third best records in the Eastern Conference. They’re still doing it without the two best players on the planet, an elite goal scorer, and one of the most underrated defensemen in the league this year. In doing so they locked up the top seed in the East with more than 10% of their games still remaining.
There’s a lot of acclaim that can go around but most of the biggest contributors continued to be the new guys that we featured last week: Brenden Morrow stepped up with an awesome Gordie Howe Hat Trick against the Habs and Jarome Iginla silenced the boo birds in Boston with a lethal PP goal. Beyond that the “New JJ” chipped in on all 3 goals against the Bruins and Tomas Vokoun showed just how good he could be with 38 10-bell saves in the same effort. But our rules are clear, no back to back winners, so let’s look at who else has been taking care of business.
April 3rd marks the NHL trade deadline, for what it’s worth the Pens will literally have 10 regular season games left after that date. As such there will be a real premium on rental players–teams will want to give up as little as possible from their core and receive as much as they can in return, even if the investment will only be for the length of the playoffs. Further, it seems obvious to us that the price for rental players will necessarily be high for a number of reasons, first, the salary cap will contract next year, so teams are not worried about trying to resign guys with expiring deals. Two, this will probably be the last time that teams can try to buy their way to a championship for a few years. And three, why not? With guys like Jarome Iginla, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Gonchar and other future Hall of Famers presumably on the market what will stop contenders from making huge moves?
This week also marks the annual GM Meetings which is supposed to be a time for the GM’s to weigh in on possible rule changes, but really is a carefully contrived opportunity to lock all the GM’s in a room and make them talk to one another. Some of the biggest publicity for the league comes during a crazy trade deadline, and after a slow deadline last year the NHL doesn’t want to risk a repeat so you just know that things will be interesting.
What follows is our list of guys that, if we were King Shero, we would be inquiring about during these meetings. We have organized the post into two parts: defensemen and forwards. Our viewpoint is that the Pens need two players, a shutdown defender and a bottom-six forward. There’s no guarantee that either will happen and certainly we aren’t opposed to the Pens zeroing in on Jarome Iginla or Chris Stewart if the price is right, but we’ve already discussed what Beau Bennett has done for the top-6 forward complexion moving forward, not to mention that the biggest offensive addition the Pens can make is a healthy Evgeni Malkin, as such, those guys aren’t essential pieces for us right now.
We created this award to recognize the best player for the Penguins in the past week. This doesn’t have to be the leading scorer or anything like that, this is the guy who contributes the most to victory–it could go to a guy who was dominant in the faceoff circle, who drew a bunch of penalties that resulted in goals, or laid some game changing hits.
Pens went 3-0 this week and, generally speaking, they won three games they should have won. Admittedly none of these were that simple: Ottawa, especially before losing their two best players, were occasionally dominant, and still ought to be considered a playoff contender. Playing the Jets in Winnipeg is never easy and coming from behind with less than 10 minutes left in the game is no mean feat.
With that said there does not seem to be one guy who stood above all others this week, so what follows are several strong candidates.
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 »
Matt Cooke has reached 17 goals for the season, this is already 2 more than his career high. He’s three short of the “magic” 20-goal plateau. That means that if he scores one goal every three games for the rest of the season, he will reach it. Yes I understand that he has 5 goals in the 5 games since his new linemate, Sidney Crosby has returned. Yes I understand that it has been beaten to death how well Cooke has changed his game this year. Read the rest of this entry »