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th?id=OIP.Mb99e20b3f9c206d2ac1d15aa71358 AND FINALLY.....

PRESEASON OUTLOOK: A little scary. They went out and added Phil th?id=OIP.M1cf28434811f17a1525638999887d Kessel who was booed and hated all the way from Ontario to PA and it ate the salary cap forcing them to bargain shop elsewhere, adding KMart specials like Cullen and Fehr and Bonino. With guys like Sid, th?id=OIP.M9521828bed703fdb6029e1decc52a Geno, Letang and Flower they were a playoff lock but uncertainty over how far they would go with a relatively inexperienced coaching Mike Sullivan was an issue to most fans as well.


FINAL RECORD: 48-26-8 104 points 2nd best in the East. Defeated the Rangers, Capitals and Lightning, then beat the Sharks in the Stanley cup finals. Stanley cup Champions.


STRANGE STAT OF THE YEAR: Crosby had 25 goals and 51 points at home and only 11 goals and 34 points away, a huge swing. Malkin was even more a home cooker, going 19-18-37 at home and a paltry 8-13-21 away. The two stars dominating play in Pittsburgh led to the leagues third best home record but inexplicably, somehow they were 22-15-4 for the leagues third best road record as well.


LOW POINT OF THE YEAR: Wow did they struggle for a five week stretch in December until late January. When they were embarrassed by the Blues 5-2 on January 18th the Penguins had lost 12 of their previous 18 games and it appeared they would be a bubble team fighting for a last playoff spot at best. Uncertainty over whether Crosby was past his best days, over the Kessel deal, over if th?id=OIP.Mb26431728e56383332d286d901b68 Sullivan was the right coach and whether Fleury was capable of helping them straighten it out were all over the net.


HIGH POINT OF THE YEAR: From that point on the Pens went 27-9-2 and were the leagues best team over the second half of the year, peaking at the right time. They shredded the Rangers and Capitals, survived a surprisingly tough 7 game series against the Bolts and then bested the Sharks in 6 to win the organizations 4th Stanley cup.


WHAT WENT RIGHT: Crosby had a brilliant season (36-49-85) to lead the way and played over 20 minutes a night in all situations, he was a true leader. th?id=HS.216593741423&pid=15.1&P=0&w=300 Letang (16-51-67) stayed healthy and was an offensive and defensive force and played 27 minutes a night. Kessel scored 26 goals in the regular season and combined with Bonino and mid season acquisition Carl Hagelin to form the HBK line which was unstoppable down the stretch and throughout the playoffs. Malkin missed time but scored 58 points in 57 games. th?id=HS.147867966075&pid=15.1&P=0&w=300 Hagelin came over from the Ducks and was a force after the deal. MA Fleury had one of his best ever regular seasons and when he was injured rather than turning to backup Zatkoff the kid, Matt th?id=HS.79156156968&pid=15.1&P=0&w=300& Murray stepped in and was simply amazing and could have won the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP. Patric Hornqvist (22-29-51) overcame a slow start to put up good numbers. Matt Cullen was an under the radar signee who filled in as the chief PK center and added 32 points. Kid forwards Connor Sheary and Bryan Rust saved their best for last, both scored huge goals throughout the playoffs. Midseason addition Justin Schultz found a home in Pittsburgh on the back end as did Trevor Daley until he broke his leg in the playoffs. Olli Maatta was plus 27 in the regular season to finish second on the club.


WHAT WENT WRONG: Chris Kunitz (17-23-40 in 80 games) continues to slow down. Malkin missed 25 games and is showing serious signs of wear and tear. Maatta seemed to lose Sullivans faith in the postseason, although he played wonderful after getting back in the lineup. Beau Bennett looks like he is destined to be a bust. Ian Cole and Eric Fehr contributed little in the regular season to justify their spots. Pascal th?id=HS.79168944419&pid=15.1&P=0&w=215& dupuis was forced into retirement with blood clots.


MVP: Crosby, with apologies to Letang who was brilliant all year long as well.


FREE AGENTS: Unlike last year when the cap forced the Pens to fill out the roster in the bargain bin, they will not have to this year. Ben Lovejoy if he leaves will be missed on the bottom pair of defense but Schultz can step in, Matt Cullen should really be resigned as he was an under the radar hero of this team all year taking the tough faceoffs in his own zone and killing penalties. Zatkoff is almost certainly playing somewhere else next year, if Fleury is kept, Murray deserves to stick around, if Fleury is traded they need a veteran backup for Murray. Either way Zatkoff should be a goner.


TOP PROSPECTS: kids such as Sheary, Dumoulin and Rust have already established themselves as here to stay, and a few more kids will be in the mix as they attempt to defend their championship. Derrick Pouliot will be sniffing for a top four spot on defense and pushing the vets, Matt Murray will be in the goalie mix either as the starter or sharing time with Fleury if he is not dealt. Daniel Sprong who had a taste of NHL life before being sent back to Juniors will be knocking on the door for a middle six role although he should be in the AHL all year. That is about it but the team is returning most if not all of its players that won it all last year and there is not much room for kids.


OFFSEASON QUESTION MARKS: With the majority of the team locked up for next year, cap issues are not an issue, can you resign Cullen and do you want to bring back Lovejoy who does hit and shot block well? Both would be cheap.

  But the biggie, possibly the biggest question mark in the entire offseason in all of Hockey save for where does Stamkos go, is what to do with Fleury? Murray earned a starting job, do you trade Fleury to someone like Calgary who is starved for a goalie? Can you deal his contract?


That is it. All 30 teams in the books. Whew, glad that is over. Congrats to the Penguins on a brilliant run.


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5 hours ago, Polaris922 said:

Laugh at his weight... He has a Cup now ;).   And how does a year in review thread for a Cup champion team end up trolling a guy that one could argue deserved the Conn Smythe?  


A wise man one said that a Stanley Cup full of hot dogs and Oreos....is still a Stanley Cup. 



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6 hours ago, Polaris922 said:

Laugh at his weight... He has a Cup now ;).   And how does a year in review thread for a Cup champion team end up trolling a guy that one could argue deserved the Conn Smythe?  

Bustin' chops Pol, sorry pal. Congrats on a beautiful year for your boys.

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This could be the start of a new feature to NHL 16.  Like the whole Mario Brothers stuff.   If Kessel is on the ice when the hot dog or cheese burger comes out,  He becomes SUPER PHIL if he eats them and is given speed and goal scoring powers.    Hey, it could happen.




But in seriousness, in my honest opinion, the turning point of the season was when Malkin went down and Bonino was promoted up to the second line with Haglin and Kessel.   The second/third lines struggled up until then, and for some reason, HBK just jelled and made a line that was a force to be dealt with.    It took the pressure off of the first line, and when Malkin did come back, it also gave them three lines that became scoring threats any time they were on the ice. 

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  Loved that it allowed the Pens to move Malkin up and down the lines in the postseason as a wildcard, playing when Crosby when needed. The HBK line was indeed. key. Congrats to your boys.

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