Pittsburgh Penguins: Is a Stanley Cup Run Still Possible?

Mike Shannon@@DLman91Featured ColumnistMarch 7, 2011

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 05:  Dustin Jeffrey #15 of the Pittsburgh Penguins is congratulated by teammates on the bench after he scored in the second period against the Boston Bruins on March 5, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

So, the Pittsburgh Penguins sit only two points out of first place in the Eastern Conference after a 3-2 overtime victory against the Boston Bruins on Saturday. 

My only question to you is: How?

It's no big secret that the Penguins have had some injury problems this year. The best player in the world, Sidney Crosby, has been out for what seems like years with a concussion, and Evgeni Malkin fell victim to Tyler Myers and his bad skating. 

Also, don't forget that Jordan Staal missed half of the year with an injury of his own.

As a matter of fact, there were only three games this year when Crosby, Malkin and Staal were all on the ice at the same time. 

How are you expected to win when that happens? Depth and goaltending.

So, who have the Penguins had to call up this year?

Only Chris Conner, Mark Letestu, Dustin Jeffery, Ben Lovejoy, Nick Johnson, Eric Tangradi, Joe Vitale, Tim Wallace, Brett Sterling, Ryan Craig, Andrew Hutchinson and Brain Strait.

They've basically called up three-fourths of an AHL team throughout the year and somehow still remain in the playoff hunt.

Mark Letestu and Dustin Jeffery have been better than almost anyone anticipated. Jeffery was leading the AHL in scoring when the Pens called him up and seems destined to stay with the big guys for the foreseeable future.

Chris Conner, despite standing at what appears to be 5'1", plays like his life is on the line every single shift and has no problem going to the corners with anyone, including Zdeno Chara (providing a very funny visual).

Brett Sterling showed a very nice scoring before being sent back down and Eric Tangradi seemed to have earned another shot at the pros until that clown Trevor Gillies struck.

Admit it, when Crosby and Malkin both went down, you thought the season was over.

You know who didn't think the season was over? Marc Andre Fleury.

If Fleury isn't a Veznia trophy candidate, then they should just stop giving out the award. He has taken the Pittsburgh Penguins on his back and played masterfully after being slow coming out of the gates.

Tim Thomas might have the stats, but Fleury is the new Dominik Hasek, the guy who makes the saves that no one has any business making. 

Besides, what has Tim Thomas ever won?

Fleury is the best goaltender in the league and has the ability to take the Pens deep into the playoffs, provided a few pieces fall into place.

In the coming weeks, Aaron Asham, Brooks Orpik and Chris Kunitz will be coming off the injured list. Add to that the continued meshing of the newly-acquired James Neal, Matt Niskanen and Alexei Kovalev, and you have quite the formidable team taking the ice every night.

They also might have the best defensive corps in the East, with Orpik, Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin and Norris trophy candidate Kris Letang leading the way. 

I'll bet you $500 that any team in the NHL would consider swapping defensemen with the Penguins for the rest of the season.

The bottom line is that this team is certainly capable of a run to the Cup, and with a bit of luck and some help from other teams, they could become the favorite.

Imagine the Penguins capture the top spot in the East, courtesy of a Flyers collapse and meet the Hurricanes in the first round, then maybe they run into Montreal in the next round. 

Would you consider the Penguins huge underdogs in either of those series? Of course not.

As a matter of fact, the only team in the East that probably scares the Penguins is probably the Flyers, but honestly, would you trust Sergei Bobrovsky over Marc Andre Fleury in a seven-game series?  

Even without Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins are still one of the top teams in the league. Dan Blysma is fully in control of this team, and the rest of the NHL knows it.

If a few more players get healthy, Fleury maintains his level of play and the young guys provide the energy, there's no telling what this team could do.

And hold on, wait a minute—is that Sidney Crosby's entrance music I hear?


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