Pittsburgh Penguins 2010-2011 Season Preview

NHLHS Pittsburgh Penguins Correspondent Robbie Naugle previews the upcoming season and what to look for out of the Pittsburgh Penguins.


After an early exit from last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins and their fans were left with a bad taste in their mouth. Following the bitter second round exit against the Montreal Canadiens many questions were left to be answered. What happened to the defense? Where did Malkin go? How badly does Crosby need a top-tier winger? Now, after a longer than normal offseason many of those questions are set to be answered.

Gone are the likes of Sergei Gonchar, Bill Guerin, and Ruslan Fedotenko. All key parts of their Stanley Cup run. Here to replace them now are Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin, and Mike Comrie. They will look to fill in the holes that were left by departing free agents. Ray Shero made the moves and now it is up to the team to prove him right. Those questions will become answers over the next 82 games. Let’s take a look at the 2010-2011 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Forwards

This Pens team will once again be led by superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby is coming off his first career 50 goal season while Malkin will be looking to rebound from a year that saw his goal total and points total drop from the previous year. It is also expected that Malkin will be moved from center to winger to help better utilize his ability as a goal scorer rather than a passer.

Jordan Staal will also be counted on to contribute to this Pens offense by being the center to Malkin. That is once he returns from injury. Staal has been ruled out for at least the first month of the season as he recovers from a foot injury which forced him to miss all of training camp.

Below the big three lies key role players like Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Mike Comrie, and Eric Tangrai. Kunitz and Dupuis will look to shine as wingers on the top line with Crosby, while Comrie and Tangradi will be placed with Malkin until Staal returns.

Just as they have for the past few years now, the Pens will once again rely on the services of several lower line grinders and enforcers. They include, Matt Cooke, Mark Letestu, Craig Adams, Mike Rupp, Eric Godard, Arron Asham, and Max Talbot. Newly resigned Matt Cooke will be the foundation of the feared third line for Pittsburgh with the likes of Asham and Talbot joining him. Rounding out the lineup on the fourth line will most likely be Letestu and Rupp while Adams and Godard rotate the final roster spot.

The Penguins are the type of team that relies on all four of their lines to contribute to win games. This is a somewhat different look than we have seen in recent years. They will feature more speed but still pack a mighty hard punch when it comes to getting the job done.

Defense

Maybe the biggest factor that led to the Pens disappointing playoff exit last year was their weakness on defense. Well, Ray Shero effectively addressed that glaring issue this offseason with two big free agent signings. In coming defensemen Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin are expected to help fill the holes on the blue line that cost the Penguins last season.

They will be joined on defense by Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski, Deryk Engelland, and Ben Lovejoy. Lovejoy and Engelland will be spiltting time to start the season.

Another big question will be which guy will replace Gonchar on the point during the powerplay? Both Letang and Goligoski look to be ready for a break out season and now with Gonchar gone it could be the perfect chance or those two. Martin was also mentioned as potential point man on the top unit.

If the moves Shero made in the offseason with the signings of Martin and Michalek end up paying off, it could yet another summer with Stanley for the Pens.

Goaltending

Maybe the most clear cut portion of the Pittsburgh roster. Just like last year the primary starter will be Marc-Andre Fleury with Brent Johnson filling in as the back-up.

The main question here is whether Fleury can rebound from what many people considered only a mediocre year last season. His numbers did drop slightly, but he was let down at times but his defense and with the offense that he has in front of him he doesn’t have to be the best player every night, he just has to get away from letting in those soft goals that can be momentum killers. If he can settle in early you could see career high numbers for Fleury this season as well as a surge to the top of the division for the Pens.

Notes

The Penguins announced their captains and alternate captains on Wednesday. Sidney Crosby will once gain serve as the team’s captain with Evgeni Malkin serving as the first alternate. Brooks Orpik and Jordan Staal will rotate the third “A” throughout the season.

Prediction

With a revamped defense, a speedy offense, and a determined netminder the Penguins could very easily find themselves sitting atop the Atlantic once again. However, there will be tough competition from Philadelphia and New Jersey. If the Pens can get everything clicking and stay healthy, they should be the class of the division.

As for the playoffs…well we all saw last year how unpredictable that can be so for I’ll wait for this prediction.

Starting Thursday a new chapter will be written in Penguins’ history. A chapter that will include new faces and a new home, but the goal will remain the same. To lift the Stanley Cup when it’s all said and done. The journey beings now. Let’s Go Pens!!!!

Robbie Naugle
NHLHS Pittsburgh Penguins Correspondent
rnaugle@nhlhotstove.com
Twitter: @PENSonNHLHS