The Pittsburgh Penguins: Questions for the New Season

Tammy Fisher-HeldenbrandContributor ISeptember 18, 2009

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins prepares for a face-off against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Mellon Arena on September 15, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Last season is last season.  Just like Coach Dan Bylsma, I am not thinking much about last year’s win, but instead I have new questions for the new season.

One: What About the Stanley Cup Hangover? 

Whether real or imagined, is there such a thing?  The most recent example of avoiding the hangover is the Detroit Red Wings.  They won the Cup in 2008 and came back, playing through the seventh game in 2009.  No, they did not win the cup in 2009, but they made it all the way.  So did the Penguins

The real question is not about whether there is a hangover from last season, but rather has two long seasons in a row taken a toll?  The Pens have played 208 games in 23 months, enough to wear out the best of men.

Two:  How Will Malkin’s Line Fill Max Talbot’s Slot While He Is Out Recovering From Surgery? 

I describe Max Talbot as the kind of guy that you want to go with you when you go into a dark alley.  He’s got your back.  He is not the highest scorer on the team, but in a crunch, he delivers. 

He showed us that in the playoffs, especially in game seven of the finals.  Evgeni Malkin, Ruslan Fedotenko, and Maxim Talbot make a great line together.  Talbot does not speak Russian, but him and Malkin are roommates on the road and seem to have an off-ice rapport and on-ice chemistry that passes communication barriers.  Malkin is at ease with Talbot and Talbot will be missed.

Three:  Are They Hungry?

Not Hunger From the Penguins, but from the competition... 

Philadelphia: Two years in a row their cup run has been ended by the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Philadelphia has steadily improved and they have more than one high scoring player. 

Washington: The Associated Press quotes Alexander Ovechkin as saying:  “On top. On top of Pittsburgh, on top of everybody,” when describing his expectation for his team.

When Ovechkin headed home after Washington was knocked out of the playoffs, he backed off working on his public persona, not making public appearances when first arriving in Russia, taking time to regroup. 

He has come back physically altered from a summer of training, bulked up and ready to go.  He also comes from a team loaded with talent.  We know Ovechkin the superstar, and Ovechkin the entertainer.  Now let’s see Ovechkin the wolf.

Four:  How Good Will Bill Guerin Be? 

Even if you are not a Penguins fan, you have got to like this guy.  Watch his interview after the fight between Malkin and Zetterberg in the playoffs.  Guerin is a levelheaded player with a wealth of experience and insight to both the game and the players. 

Last year, he spent 61 games with the New York Islanders, contributing with 36 points.  With the Penguins, he has 12 points in just 17 games.  It had to be discouraging playing on one of the worst teams in recent history and a change to get to go to the Pens and win the Cup. 

He is not the youngest man on the team, but he still loves the game and has the passion.  Even if the points do not show up on the board, the influence he has over the younger players will be long lasting and inspirational.

The final question for the Penguins and one I hate to address is not if Sidney Crosby will get hurt but rather when.  He has missed the last two All-Star games due to injury and the question is: Will he make it this year? 

I would love to see the 120-point Sidney of three seasons ago, even with sharing the ice with Malkin and all the other talent.  Like all Penguins fans, I do not want to see Sid hurt, but if history repeats itself…

I have more questions lingering from last season.  I want to know if Chris Versteeg will have an outstanding season.  Will David Krejci have another smashing start to the season and will he maintain his point production all season instead of faltering in late February again?  What about Tim Thomas, will he pick up where he left off? 

Nikolai Khabibulin has a new four year contact and a reputation of being unsteady in non-contract years.  Will he have the drive and ambition to pull off another season like last (W-L-OTL 28-8-7, SV% .919, GAA 2.33) or will he step back to his less glorious ways?  Does he want one more cup badly enough to go all out?

Many questions and a great season lie ahead for fans.  Have you got your tickets yet?