Friday, March 29, 2013

Pens have no excuses

By Jeff

It's hard to say anything that hasn't been said recently about the Pittsburgh Penguins recent flurry of trades that brought in Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas "Don't call me Dog. I prefer Crankshaft" Murray. I could speculate what the lines will be, what the chemistry will be like, how little it took to get a future Hall of Famer in Iginla, etc. But that has all been said and I have no wild insights that would differ from The Pensblog, Pensburgh, Empty Netters or any of the national hockey writers.

The only thing I have to say is the Pens have no excuse not to win the Stanley Cup this year. With the recent moves, they are the deepest team in the NHL at every position. They have two all-world players in their primes in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. They have a Norris Trophy candidate in Kris Letang (when healthy). They have two goaltenders who have had some struggles this year, but during the 14-game win-streak, have been as good as any one else in the league.

There is no reason this team should not win the Cup. I get that a hot goalie can change everything in the NHL playoffs, but with the firepower the Pens can deploy with three dangerous lines, they should be able to overcome anyone between the pipes.

The defense and the goalies have given up nine goals in their last 10 games. They have shown they can shut down the opposing team. If they fail again in the playoffs it's not because lack of talent. It would be a choke job, plain and simple.

But the playoffs are still a month away. While Cup expectations are looming and there is no excuse for not bringing home the Cup, there is also no excuse to enjoy one of the best runs in the franchise's history.

Other than the 2007-08 and the 2008-09 Cup runs, this is the most excited I've been for the Pens. the early 90's Cups were cool, but I was 5-7 years old. The Pens winning and losing didn't really matter to me much at that age. But ever since the X-Generation, I have been, like Ray Shero this year, all in.

I don't really care what the Steelers do in the draft, I'm not watching the Buccos in spring training very closely, and I didn't even enter any March Madness pools. It has been all Pens all the time, because we're witnessing one of the best teams the city has ever seen in any sport.

Just about every player in the lineup is playing at a level you didn't think they could. Pascal Dupuis has 17 goals in 35 games. Chris Kunitz has 20. In an 81-game season, they would be on pace for 39 and 46 goals, respectively. Crosby would be on pace for 129 points. It's crazy the level that line is playing at. Crosby has made cross ice or behind the net backhand passes look so simple, we view these actions as routine, when no one else in the league is doing it.

Brandon Sutter has made it easy to forget Jordan Staal. All he has done in replace of Staal is score four game winning goals, which is two goals shy of matching his career game winners up to this point.

The ageless Mark Eaton was signed to a tryout and then put on the big team midway through the season. He has helped solidfy the blueline and the Pens haven't lost a game in which he plays.

Hell, even head coach Dan Bylsma is getting on the action. He actually calls timeouts at appropriate times!

Take all this and then the team adds Iginla, who has scored 30+ goals in 11 consecutive seasons despite not having an elite center for any of those years. Whichever line he plays on becomes more dangerous.

This season has the potential to be the best Pens fans have ever witnessed. General manager Ray Shero did a hell of a job compiling a roster mixed with superstars and grinders who put team above themselves.

While I fear this could be '92-'93 all over, when the best team in the franchise's history fell short in the playoffs, I will not let that ruin the pure enjoyment I get from watching this team. That being said, if the Pens don't win it all, I might completely shut down until October.


  1. A lot of teams can say that anything less than a championship would be a disappointment. I mean, who wants to be the number one loser? I said that about last year's Pens team and I still believe it. Even if we beat the Flyers and then lose in the next series, it's still a disappointing season.

    But this year's Pens team takes that to a new level. I think it was Rob Rossi that said this might be the most talented Penguins team in history - and not just including the past, he was basically saying that in our lifetime we're never going to see another Penguins team this talented again.

    The fact that Iginla, Morrow, and Murray are all without rings is going to bring a different level of motivation that the Pens have missed pretty badly the past few years. I might be counting my chickens, but bring on Chicago.

  2. Number one loser? That's worked for me for a couple decades.

    Ideally, I'd like to have all these injured guys to be able to play a game or two before the playoff start, just so they're up to game speed. (PS I know this is a worthless post, I just really wanted a reason to make that bad joke).

  3. That's actually pretty good. I always say that because it was in a Jerry Seinfeld stand up that I pretty much have memorized.

    "The Olympics is really my favorite sporting event, although I think I have a problem with that silver medal. I think, if I was an Olympic athlete, I would rather come in last than win the silver. If you think about it... if you win the gold, you feel good. If you win in the bronze, you think: "Well, at least I got something." But if you win that silver, it's like: "Congratulations! You...almost won. Of all the losers, you came in first of that group. You're the number one...loser. No one lost...ahead of you."