Those Penguins fans expecting to plan a parade route later this year will likely be sorely disappointed. The Penguins got a severe taste of reality following the Olympic break, running into Chicago, Anaheim and San Jose. They were not very successful, although Marc Andre Fleury--a favorite lightning rod of mine--was able to steal 2 points for them from Anaheim.
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This team lacks the forward depth necessary to sustain pressure in an opponent's defensive zone. Unfortunately, with the injuries they have sustained, their defense is not good enough to clear out its own zone. They are totally dependent on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to carry them. Sadly, those two--as otherworldly as they are--have shown again and again they are not able to carry a team through the NHL post season grind. Even in the CUP year of 2009, 87 and 71 were invisible when the spot light was at its brightest. It was players like Max Talbot, Jordan Staal, and Tyler Kennedy who stole the series from Detroit.
Last year we saw it first hand, as the Pens dispatched the over-matched but game Islanders and destroyed the Senators in the first two rounds. I would expect much of the same this year, unless Fleury implodes once again in the post season. Winning an eastern conference division will not necessarily pay dividends for the Pens, as they will be matched up against a team that was forced to play its best hockey just to get into the post season. The Pens, meanwhile, have been on cruise control for weeks now...
Unfortunately this means that the Penguins will be also-rans at some point this spring. They can easily address their needs in the off-season--trading for Kesler is not the answer--by signing some wings and drafting a (gasp) forward. The jury is still out as to whether or not Shero can do that. Until then, Pens fans are just left to enjoy what's left of the ride and hopefully--for their own sanity--not set expectations too high for this group.
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