This upcoming season the Pittsburgh Penguins will look
vastly different than they did when they extended their playoff streak to eight
Christian Ehrhoff – D James
Neal – RW
Patric Hornqvist – RW Matt
Niskanen – D
Nick Spaling – C Brooks
Orpik – D
Thomas Greiss – G Jussi
Jokinen – LW
Steve Downie – RW Lee
Stempniak – RW
Blake Comeau – LW Deryk
Engelland – D
Glass – LW
Joe Vitale – C
The Penguins head into 2014-15 with eight of their regulars
from last season gone. They lost starting defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks
Orpik to the Capitals in free agency and traded top-6 forward James Neal to the
Nashville Predators. In addition to Neal; Jussi Jokinen is now in Florida,
meaning Evgeni Malkin will have two entirely different linemates this year.
Neal was dealt for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling, who
are both expected to play big roles this season. Hornqvist is an obvious
candidate to fill-in for Neal on Malkin’s right side, which must feel like an
early Christmas present for the 27-year-old Swede. Hornqvist has always been a
solid scorer (20+ goals in the last four 82-game seasons) and should definitely
score more goals in Pittsburgh.
Can you believe we made it through 203 words without
mentioning Sidney Crosby? After some injury plagued seasons, Crosby turned in a
full-year in 2013-14. He led all players with 104 points (36G / 68A) in 80
games. Chris Kunitz will be back on his wing, a year after setting a
career-high with 35 goals at the age of 34. They will get Pascal Dupuis back on
the right-side, after he missed 43 games with a torn ACL.
Back to Malkin… He had a tough year, missing 22 games with a
leg and foot injury. Despite missing time, the 28-year-old had 23 goals and 49
assists (72 points) in 60 games, which is a 98-point pace. If he stays healthy he
is a stud, but health has been an issue for Malkin over the last five seasons.
Over that span he has missed 100 games.
Despite losing three regular D-men, the Penguins still look
strong on the blueline. They brought Christian Ehrhoff over from Buffalo on a
one-year deal and he will definitely contribute. Ehrhoff put up solid numbers
on an anemic Sabres’ offence, so the move to a powerhouse Penguins’ power-play
could produce a career-year for the German. Kris Letang is back after suffering
a stroke last season. He averaged over 24 minutes TOI in the playoffs, so he is
showing no ill effects from the scary incident. Ehrhoff and Letang should
battle for the team lead in points on the back-end. Olli Maatta, 20, was great
for the Pens in his rookie campaign. He had 29 points (9G / 20A) in 78 games
and will build on that this season. He did not score that much in juniors, so
do not expect a huge jump in production. He is rock-solid in his own end and
another mid-20’s season is the most likely scenario. Paul Martin also missed
significant time last season after breaking his hand in the Olympics. A healthy
Martin will be a big boost.
In goal the Penguins will also look a little different this
season. Marc-Andre Fleury is still their starter, but he will have a new
back-up with Thomas Greiss coming over from the Arizona Coyotes. Last year,
Fleury was second in the NHL in wins (39) but was 16th in GAA (2.37) and 23rd
in SV% (.915). He has been remarkably consistent over the last four years.
2.32, 2.36, 2.39 and 2.37 are the GAA’s he has posted while keeping his SV%
between .913 and .918. Those numbers are not elite, but they are solid.
Season prediction: The Penguins will win the Metropolitan
Division Title and contend for the President’s Trophy.
View the Penguins’ entire roster and cap space heading into
the 2014-15 season