The Pittsburgh Penguins may have had a slight Stanley Cup hangover to start this season. When that is coupled with an early season trip to Europe, the Penguins have not had the same fire that they had last season. Of course, the Penguins are without superstar winger Marian Hossa this season too, which has led many of the Penguins’ faithful to believe they just aren’t as good as last season.
The Penguins are hoping that Hossa's replacement, free agent acquisition Miroslav Satan, can help spark the Penguins' offense like Hossa did after his late-season arrival. Satan started the season slow, but has been picking up the slack after a demotion to the third line. He has notched six goals and four assists in 12 games this season, floating between the Penguins' top three lines.
He might not have the same flair as Hossa, but if Satan can stay motivated and use his big frame (6’3” and 192 pounds) he’ll find himself playing on the top two lines in Pittsburgh and putting up some career numbers.
Not only do the Penguins need their top lines to be consistent, they need the support of their third and fourth lines to be a contender. Every successful team in the NHL has had the secondary scoring support from its third- and fourth-line players. The Penguins succeeded in that category last season and have most of those players returning from last season, along with a few new faces.
Winger Matt Cooke replaces pest Jarkko Ruutu and Ruslan Fedotenko brings a scoring touch along with his tough play along the boards. Fedotenko and Cooke both have a scoring touch, which can be an asset to the Penguins if any of their top six forwards suffer long-term injuries.
Fedotenko also brings an intangible with him: a Stanley Cup Championship. If Cooke and Fedotenko can contribute anywhere from 25 to 40 points, it will bode success for the Penguins.
Maxime Talbot and Tyler Kennedy return to the Penguins one year older and more experienced. Talbot and Kennedy are two talented and gritty players that have seen first-line minutes and can add a scoring touch to the grinding lines, along with the toughness to help support the top lines.
The biggest hurdle for the Penguins to overcome is Coach Michel Therrien. Yes, Therrien led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals, but talent does a great deal on its own. A talented team that wanted to win came up short of forcing a Game Seven. Why did they come up short? Because of Therrien’s coaching tactics, which have already slowed down this year’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
Therrien feels it’s necessary to get a second power play unit on the ice during every power play. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin deserve to be on the ice for the full two minutes, especially if they weren’t on the ice prior to the penalty. Malkin and Crosby are good enough shape to run a power play for two minutes.
It’s hard to believe that Therrien trusts his power play to the likes of Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis after the first unit gets 45 seconds of ice time. If the Penguins want to win, Therrien must do two things; he needs to keep the lines consistent and the top power play unit must play more than 45 seconds on the man-advantage.
Consistency is what will help this team be successful. If Crosby and Malkin have familiar linemates for more than three games, they will post numbers that could rival those of Gretzky and Lemieux. Of course, the entire team needs to play hard night in and night out, too.