Posted on: October 1, 2009 7:49 pm

5 Burning questions: Pittsburgh Penguins

In about 24 hours from now, the Pittsburgh Penguins will open their season against divsion rival the New York Rangers.  This is the game the Penguins will be raising their Stanley Cup banner, but right after that it is time to put last year in the past and time for these 10 questions to be answered:

1.  Will the Penguins suffer from a Stanley Cup hangover?

I am not a big believer in Stanley Cup hangovers.  Yeah there have been signs of it in the past, but how this team is built I don't let see the coaches and captains letting that happen.  They are hungrier than ever after getting that first taste of winning it and won't slow down because they are satisfied in getting it last year or tired.

2.  Who will be the right winger on the Evgeni Malkin and Ruslan Fedotenko line?

Since we have learned that Maxime Talbot had shoulder surgery over the summer and is going to miss the first couple of months of the season, this has been a big question.  The leading cantidates right now are Tyler Kennedy (who was on the line during training camp/preseason) and Pascal Dupuis (who is going to start the season on this line).  Then we have a couple of guys down in the minors in Eric Tangradi (top prospect) and Luca Caputi (#2 winger prospect).  Then there is Chris Bourque, who the Penguins claimed off of waivers from the Washington Capitals.

Of the five players listed above, I think Kennedy has the best shot at taking the spot.  He is a player just like Max Talbot, plays hard every shift, decent shot, good speed, helps create space for the other 2.  He has the potential to be a 20-25 goal scorer and putting him with Malkin could be a great fit.

Dupuis, like I said earlier, is starting on this line.  I don't think this is gonna stick though.  He has horrible hands and not a very accurate shot.  He is a 3rd-4th liner that has good speed and plays good defense. 

Tangradi is gonna be the winger for either Crosby or Malkin for years to come and looked really good in the preseason, but he needs a year in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL.  This is his first year of professional hockey after spending the last few years in the OHL.  He is gonna be an absolute stud someday, just not right away.

Caputi is a good power foreward that isn't the best skater.  He has the potential to be a 20-25 goal scorer and is gonna end up a decent 2nd liner playing with whoever Tangradi is not.  After watching him in the preseason, he needs to spend a little more time in the NHL before making the jump into the NHL.

Chris Bourque is an interesting player.  I do not no much about him, but he was a point per game player last year in the AHL and has never really got a shot at the NHL.  He is a small guy listed at 5'8" and I have read that he is a high energy guy, like a Kennedy or Talbot.  He will be staying with the team (because we can't send him down after claiming him off waivers) and could be the darkhorse for the position on the second line.

3. Can Marc-Andre Fleury stay healthy for the whole season?

Fleury has been bitten by the injury bug the last 2 years.  Even though he played in 62 games last year, he missed 12 games with a "lower body injury" last season and 27 games the year before with a high ankle sprain.  Injuries are probably the most unpredictable thing in sports so its hard to say if he will, but I think this is the year he stays healthy and shows why he should be on the olympic team.


4.  Will Bill Guerin end up like former veteran wingers?

The Penguins have not had the best of luck with vetaran wingers in the past few years.  First it was John LeClair who we signed to play with the rookie Crosby, and it worked well the first year.  He scored 22 goals and 51 points, but was nothing special.  The next yera he scored 2 goals and 7 points in 21 games before being placed on waivers.

Then came Mark Recchi for his 3rd stint with the team.  He had a very good first season scoring 24 points and 68 points, but the next year he scored 2 goals and 6 assists in 19 games.  He was better last year scoring 61 points, but that wasn't for the Penguins.

Now we have Bill Guerin, who scored 12 goals and 27 points for the Penguins in 41 games.  Now that he is a year older and the fact that we play such a fast paced system might mean he could have similar fates that Recchi and LeClair had.  I don't see it happening and could see him ending up a lot more like Gary Roberts (who was not a great player for us, but great tough leader that was a fan favorite).


5.  Will Jordan Staal take his game up another level and show why he was a first round pick?

Jordan Staal has been one of the best penalty killers in the league the past few years and had his best point-total season last year, but still has a lot of room to improve.  He wiffs on a lot of shots and isn't as consistant as you would like him to be in the offensive zone.  Him, Matt Cooke, and Tyler Kennedy was a great line last year and was probably the best third line in the NHL last year and was looking really good in Dan Bylsma's new system.  I think if he plays like he did at the end of last year, he will score 30 goals and get 60 points.

There are a lot more questions that are to be answered about the Penguins this year, and you can waste a lot of time debating them but you won't know you are right until the season starts.  Some final questions that I am not gonna answer, but feel free to do so in the comments:
  • How will the losses of Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill effect the Penguins blue line?
  • How will Crosby using a new stick this year effect his game?
  • Who will be the Penguins biggest competition in the east?
  • Who will be the Penguins MVP: Crosby, Malkin, or someone else?
  • Will the Penguins and Red Wings meet again in the Stanley Cup for the 3rd year in a row?
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