Expectations (or Revenge)…

You dont think hell be motivated this year? Psh

You don't think he'll be motivated this year? Psh

With the combination of training camp slowly on the horizon (and I mean slooooowly), and the boredom of  summer, I’ve decided to dip into the expectations for the 08/09 team…

Well that was fast. The 05/06 Penguins were one of the worst teams in the NHL, finishing 15th (that’s last place for the uneducated). Fast forward to a short two years later, and the Penguins are in the Stanley Cup Finals. Talk about being WAY ahead of schedule. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t expect the Pens to make this rapid improvement until at least a couple years from now.

That was then, this is now…

Now the Pens lost a few pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle but added hopefully the right pieces back into the puzzle. As we all know we lost the traitor errr I mean Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone and Jarkko RUUUUUUUTUUU (ahhh I’ll miss that). Then, as we all know, we’ve added Miroslav Satan (SATAN!), Ruslan Fedotenko, and Matt Cooke (our three biggest replacements/signings).

Now I’m not going to go into big detail because I already talked about our losses and additions in two other posts. However, I do think that our losses out-weigh our additions and we’ll be a worse team that went to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals a year ago. Will it be a HUGE drop-off? No. Why? Because we have Sidney effing Crosby, Evgeni effing Malkin, and Marc-Andre effing Fleury.

I know what you’re thinking. “That’s only three players, they don’t make up the entire roster”. You’re right and wrong. In this day and age, all you need is a solid core to be a Cup contender and in my un-biased (or biased) opinion, the Pens have the second best core in the league (Wings have the best…ugh, I know). Though you still need a solid group of players around the core.

That’s a completely different topic though. 

The line pairings I’m about to post are all predictions….

Offensively expect the Pens to be very good though I think we all know to expect that. When you have the two best centers in the game and a third line center that would start on most teams second lines, it’s pretty much a given your offense is going to be more than solid. Add that Crosby will have a true sniper for a whole year in Miroslav Satan and Malkin will have his sniper that he already has experience with in Petr Sykora. The top two lines should be elite and be the main scoring lines (well duh).

But don’t underestimate the bottom 6. Most of the year, Jordan Staal will be anchoring the third line with most likely (prediction time here folks), Janne Pesonen and Tyler Kennedy as his line-mates. That should be a solid energy line that has a little bit of everything. A good puck handler in Staal, a scorer in Pez and a quick, energy guy in Tyler Kennedy. Then the fourth line should consist of Max Talbot, possibly Jeff Taffe, and some WBS guys filling the line-up throughout the year. I know what you’re thinking, “so the second alternate is all the way down on the fourth line?” Well…

That brings me to my next point. Everyone has to remember that Therrien will change up the lines frequently. For example, I can pretty guarantee that Staal will play a bit on the second line, Talbot will be all over the place throughout the year, if Sykora or Satan start to regress they’ll be moved to the third line, etc. Yeah it’s really annoying and I wish Therrien would just tone it down in that department. The line pairings are just what I feel will happen more often and how they’ll be paired up at the beginning of the year more than the whole duration of the season.

Once again, completely different topic though.

The Pens will have something this year that they rarely ever have…..DE-FENSE. I know, it’s really weird to say that the Pens will actually have some defense to go with that offense. Sergei Gonchar will obviously showcase the defense as one of the best in the game. If ‘candy-man’ Brooks Orpik can progress on his playoff performance, expect him to be a possible All-Star (and I’m serious). Ryan Whitney is sofffffff but there’s always hope for him to have a solid season. Hal Gill was a surprise last year and I do expect him to continue to be a dependable d-man. Then you have the young gun in Kris Letang (POOTIE TANG!) that will only continue to improve his game defensively (and shoot-outs too surprisingly).

Then the most important defense the Pens have in is net – Marc-Andre Fleury. In an odd way, I guess you can say that Fleury’s ankle injury that kept him out for a large chunk of games maybe is the best thing that has happened to him and his career. He got to observe Ty Conklin do the things that he did wrong and improve on it. Then when he came back he was a COMPLETELY different goalie and had a very good playoff run, including that epic and memorable Game 5 where he literally stole that game.

For the 08/09 year, I have high expectations for Fleury if he stays healthy. If he can play a full season, I expect Fleury to start to be included in that ‘elite group’ of goalies. His ceiling his so high and now that his weaknesses aren’t nearly as big as they used to be, he should be a much improved goalie. We’ll definitely need him too since we have Dany Sabourin as our back-up. Fleury goes down and we’re screwed.

Another thing the Pens will have this year that they never ever had before is Stanley Cup experience. Something that every other team in the East doesn’t have, other than Ottawa. So it’s more of a ‘been there, done that’ routine than it is a way of trying to figure out how to get there. Of course it’ll always be hard to get back but at least they’ll have the upper hand over every other team than Ottawa (which I doubt make it far in the playoffs anyway).

So with all that said, I only have one image for my expectations. You might recognize this trophy when you see it. It’s sort of famous.

Stanley Cup or BUST!

LETS GO PENS!

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