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Penguins Update: The Unsung Heroes – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Update: The Unsung Heroes

It’s been a topsy-turvy season in Penguin-land. For starters, there’s a new coach and GM. Not to mention tons of personnel changes and the usual spate of injuries and illnesses to contend with. Even team captain and reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner Sidney Crosby hasn’t been immune, enduring an uncharacteristically epic scoring drought.

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Fortunately, a number of Sid’s teammates have stepped to the fore during these uncertain times to help pick up the slack.

Marc-Andre Fleury—With the exception of a mild post All-Star Game flinch, Fleury’s been superb all year long. The numbers speak for themselves—a sparkling 2.16 goals-against average, a league (and career) high eight shutouts, and a .925 save percentage—fourth best in the NHL.

Indeed, Fleury is fulfilling the promise that made him a No. 1 overall pick all those years ago. Still remarkably athletic and durable at age 30, “Flower’s” carried the team on his slender shoulders while displaying a surprisingly competitive edge. Thus far, he’s the Pens’ unquestioned MVP.

Kudos to GM Jim Rutherford for locking up No. 29 for four more seasons.

Kris Letang—“Tanger’s” made a stunning recovery from the stroke that threatened to end his career. While fellow superstars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have languished at times, No. 58 elevated his game. Enjoying arguably his finest season in a Penguins uniform, he’s tied for the NHL lead in points among defenseman (47).

Letang’s advanced stats reflect his dominance. His Corsi For (56.1%) and Fenwick For (56.4%) possession stats at even strength are excellent. As are his Corsi/60 Rate (13.9) and Fenwick/60 Rate (10.6).

He’s a cinch to win the Masterton Trophy and should garner serious support for the Norris Trophy.

Paul Martin—Following two turbulent seasons in the Steel City, then-GM Ray Shero asked Martin if he wanted out in 2012. The Minnesota native said no. Since then he’s been arguably the Pens’ best all-around defenseman.

Calm, cool, and poised with the puck, the unflappable redhead has been especially steady this season (plus-17). He’s averaged over 22 minutes of ice time per game while contributing greatly to partner Kris Letang’s resurgence. Too bad he’s a UFA-to-be.

Blake Comeau—Culled from the free-agent scrap heap at a rock-bottom price, Comeau’s been a revelation. Expected to fill a bottom-six role, the former 20-goal man pounced on an opportunity to re-establish himself as a scorer when Pascal Dupuis went down with a blood clot.

Slotted next to Malkin on the second line, Blake’s potted 14 goals in 39 games—a 30-goal pace over a full season. As advertised, he’s provided speed and grit (120 hits), too.

Rob Scuderi—During the opening round of last year’s playoffs, I blogged that the Pens should bench Scuderi. Struggling to recover from the lingering effects of a broken ankle, it looked as though the one-time stalwart and Stanley Cup hero had reached the end of the line.

When “Scuds” was penciled into the defensive rotation last fall, I was dubious about his ability to bounce back. The veteran defender proved me wrong. No, he isn’t pretty to watch. But he’s been solid and reliable (plus-12)—the hallmarks of his game. A quality guy through and through, he’s served as a veteran leader and on-ice mentor for partner Simon Despres and the team’s other young defenders.

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7 Comments

  1. Levi's Gravatar Levi
    February 24, 2015 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see Scuderi get some credit after the crusifixion (mostly deserved) last year.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 24, 2015 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      Hey Levi,

      It was sad to see how much heat Scuderi drew last year. I felt badly about suggesting that the Pens bench him. But he just struggled so much.

      Conversely, it’s been heartening to see him playing as well as he has (45 plus or even games vs. 15 minus). I’m not saying he should be nominated for the Norris. But he’s been steady and consistent. A lot like the “Scuds” of old.

  2. Barry Lush's Gravatar Barry Lush
    February 24, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,

    With Paul Martin being a ufa at the end of the season,do you think the Pens keep him or deal him at the deadline? I would like to see him stay but would hate to see him sign elsewhere at seasons end and the team not getting anything back for him.
    -Barry

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      February 24, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Hey Barry,

      Always nice to hear from you.

      Unless someone makes Rutherford an offer he simply can’t refuse (unlikely given Martin’s UFA status), I think the Pens will keep Paul for the playoffs and then lose him a la Matt Niskanen via free agency.

      An unfortunate by-product of the salary-cap era…you can’t always hang onto the players you’d like to keep.

      • Barry Lush's Gravatar Barry Lush
        February 24, 2015 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        True,I guess it’s worth it to the Pens to keep him for the stretch run. I think with the Perron trade and the Lappy deal I can’t see JR being really active at the deadline. Lots of teams are interested in Winnik but the asking price is a 2nd rd pick, rather see the team keep the pick. Perhaps Jägr would be a smaller asking price lol.

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          February 25, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          Unless Rutherford creates some cap space by moving some guys (Kunitz and/or Bennett?) it’s hard to imagine him doing anything earth-shaking. He really seems to like Winnik (plus-15 on a dreadful Leafs team), but a second-round pick is an awfully steep price.

          Still, I wouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of a big trade. JR seems very fluid and adaptable.

          As much as it would make for a great story, I’m not sure Jagr is what we need. Yes, he’s a big-bodied player. And he’s still dangerous in confined spaces. But I don’t think he’d be effective outside of a top-six role. And where would he fit on an already crowded power play? We’d have three guys (Jags, Geno, and Sid) vying for the same space along the half-wall.

          Since we’re talking trade targets, someone mentioned Calgary’s Curtis Glencross as a possible acquisition. He may be a tad on the downside at age 32, but I’ve always liked him. Character guy, kind of a buzz-saw type, versatile, with some skills. Not huge, but not a Smurf (6-1, 197). Won’t break the bank at $2.5 million.

          • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
            February 25, 2015 at 10:50 am | Permalink

            Another under-the-radar guy I always liked is Arizona’s Antoine Vermette. Industrious guy, always seemed to be around the puck or digging in the corners. Same size and age as Glencross, but pricier at $3.75 million. His hits have decreased dramatically since he left Ottawa, so maybe he doesn’t get as “dirty” these days.


            

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