Many media outlets and hockey punditeers are climbing aboard the bandwagon this week and predicting that the Pittsburgh Penguins will win Lord Stanley’s Cup come June 2008. Here at NHLPens.com, we are a bit more circumspect that this year will be THE year. Don’t get me wrong, we think the Penguins time is coming, and soon. I have been predicting that the Penguins will hoist the cup by 2009. However, I think another year of growth and experience are in order first.
On Monday, it was Kevin Allen over at USA Today, an accomplished hockey journalist with 20+ years in the business. He predicted the Penguins will win the cup this year and cited the top ten reasons. They include the Sidney Crosby and the Crosby factor, the Oilers syndrome, league parity, Marc Andre Fleury, Gary Roberts, Coach Therrien, the Penguins fans, an unknown hero to be traded in, and Ray Shero.
Yesterday, Wes Goldstein over at CBS Sports added their nod to the Penguins to take it all. He credits the “quality mix” that Pittsburgh has around Crosby, whom he redited as approaching iconic status. He praised the veteran leadership of Gary Roberts, Mark Recchi and Sergei Gonchar, but gave more credit to the depth and talent of the young players. He also credited how they have evolved as a team with “chemistry and exuberance” that harken back to the dyanasties of the Oilers and Islanders.
Also yesterday, Scott Wraight over at CNNSI posted his first Power Rankings of the season and penned in the Penguins at the number 2 spot. In the write-up he mentions that the Penguins are his choice to win the cup. He point out that Marc Andre Fleury will have to be better in goal, however. Contrast this with USA Today’s using Fleury as one of the 10 reasons that they will win the cup.
Today, Ron Smith over at the Sporting News cast his ballot for the Penguins to take it all. While acknowledging their need to grow and fend off pesky competitors, he contends that youth will win the day in a high-scoring finals against a more seasoned Red Wings team.
These are just a few of the folks picking the Penguins to win the Cup this year. While I believe that the Penguins are an offensive powerhouse with the great intangibles of chemistry and excitement, I still think that the team needs to improve its defensive game and its ability to win face-offs to better control puck possession. This will come in due time, but I don’t believe it will be in time enough to push them all the way this year. The excitement this year will be in seeing how deep they go in the playoffs, how many points Crosby and Malkin can accumulate, how many short-handers Staal can put in the net, and how many amazing saves that Marc Andre Fleury can make. Add to that some good hitting from Recchi, Roberts, Armstrong and Orpik, and we have ourselves an exciting season of hockey ahead of us.
Go Pens Go!