Key Offseason Losses: Bill Guerin, Sergei Gonchar
Key Offseason Additions: Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek, Arron Asham
Last Season Ranking: 4th in East
The Penguins will again be anchored by the offensive production of team captain Sidney Crosby and winger Evgeni Malkin with secondary scoring coming from Chris Kunitz and Jordan Staal. However, in the off season the Penguins again failed to address the pressing issue of finding a suitable right winger to play alongside Sidney Crosby, prompting many to believe that Malkin and Crosby could end up together on the top line this season. Such a move would extremely hinder the offensive depth of the Penguins. A more likely scenario will see Staal moving up to the second line where he will center Malkin, which should benefit both players immensely and put Malkin back up to 90-100 points this season. Players like Pascal Dupuis and Maxim Talbot may be called upon to help provide more offensive depth while players like Eric Tangradi will need to show that they deserve a consistent spot with the big club this season.
Whatever Pittsburgh lacks in offense they make up for with grit. Tough guy Arron Asham signed a one-year deal with Pittsburgh where he will have good company in fellow tough guy Eric Goddard, who accumulated 76 penalty minutes in 45 games last season, and super pest Matt Cooke. Asham may even get an opportunity on the wing of Jordan Staal on Pittsburgh’s second line, which would be beneficial for Pittsburgh if Asham can create space for the other scorers.
Pittsburgh lost a lot of skill on their power play with the departure of Sergei Gonchar, who was the team’s third-leading scorer with 50 points last season. But the team hopes that defenseman Alex Goligoski will help fill the void left on the point by Gonchar’s departure. The additions of Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek will also help solidify the Penguins’ blue line and make the team difficult to play against. Martin has twice been plus-20 or better in his past three seasons and could have career highs in points with a more offensive-minded team like the Penguins.
Marc-Andre Fluery and Brent Johnson will again handle the workload in net. Fluery had a solid season last year with 37 wins and a 2.65 goals against average along with a .905 save percentage. Expect more of the same from Fluery this year as the Penguins will need to him to steal a few games along the way. While Fleury will handle the majority of the workload, Johnson is more than capable as a backup and could get himself 15-20 starts and around 10 wins again this year.
Any team that boasts the likes of both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is dangerous offensively, but the Penguins will need to be good on defense this year too. The loss of Sergei Gonchar will hurt the team, especially on the power play, but the additions of Martin and Michalek will certainly help fortify the team’s blue line and make them tough to score on. Expect the Penguins to definitely be playoff contenders come next April.