Everyone in Pittsburgh Penguins Nation is riding high after a dominating performance against the Ottawa Senators. This collection of All-Stars has not disappointed by putting on a display of hockey greatness. The thing that everyone needs to realize is that as good as things are, the Penguins are capable of much, much more.
Let’s start with Evgeni Malkin. While Malkin does lead the team in playoff points, he has left a lot on the table. He has dazzled us, made terrible blunders, and at times disappeared, but if he could summon the Malkin of 2009, or even 2012 and dazzle on a more consistent basis while minimizing the blunders, Malkin would be the star among stars.
Sidney Crosby has been cleared to remove the guard protecting his broken jaw. I would liken the protector to that of Superman’s Clark Kent glasses. The specs come off and the super hero emerges. Crosby has been nothing short of spectacular, but has admitted that the guard hampered his vision and its removal can only improve things. Look for a guard less, energized Crosby to reach a Lemieux like level.
Brandon Sutter has been quiet offensively this post season netting only two points thus far. It would be a shame to continue to compare Sutter and Jordan Staal, but deep down Sutter has a few Staalzy like performances in his future. He showed his talent level in the regular season, and has done things to help the team that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but when he does put up points it will be in convincing fashion.
I have likened the insertion of Jarome Iginla onto the left side of Malkin to that of putting a square block into a round hole. Sure he has some decent numbers, but if he were on the right side with the right center, the goal production would be much higher. Crosby and Iginla have shown that they can make magic together on more than one occasion, and moving Chris Kunitz onto the second line would benefit Malkin as well.
Brenden Morrow has somewhat disappointed this post season, but he showed a spark upon returning from injury. Morrow may be nearing the end of his career, but his hockey smarts, skill, and absolute desire to win the Cup will drive him to a better showing. The former Dallas Stars Captain may not be a first-liner anymore, but he is still capable of taking over a game be it on the score sheet or in a Gary Roberts way of doing things.
Above are just a few examples of how the Pittsburgh Penguins could take their elite level of hockey to another echelon of play that few teams have ever experienced.
Who knows what we could see from Beau Bennett, Simon Despres, maybe even Marc-Andre Fleury, but no matter how is shakes out, it is truly a good time to be a Pens fan.
Greg is the editor in chief of www.hypeduphockey.com
Sidney Crosby Photo Dan4th flickr.com