Pittsburgh Penguins: 8 Bold Predictions for the 2011-12 Season
It's finally hockey season!
Both will change soon, at least the former will.
This means it's time to make some bold predictions regarding the Penguins and their season. They feel like they are destined to win the Stanley Cup so these bold predictions are going to be loftier than usual.
Here we go!
Sidney Crosby Will Play over 65 Games
It was reported earlier today that Crosby will start the season on the IR.
There is still plenty of uncertainty whether Crosby can take hits. He still hasn't been cleared for contact by doctors.
However, Crosby will only miss about the first month of the season and return healthier than ever. He will not only play 65 games but he will be the best player on the team and finish in the top three in scoring behind his teammate Evgeni Malkin.
Which leads us to...
Evgeni Malkin Will Win His First MVP and Have a Career Season
Evgeni Malkin has not had a 100-point season since 2008-09. That will change in 2011-12. Malkin will put up stellar numbers and win the scoring title. He will score 50 goals and win his first career MVP award.
He's been absolutely unbelievable this preseason. It seems like his nagging injuries are all gone and he isn't being hindered by anything. Malkin will start strong and finish strong and be the reason why the Penguins finish first in the east.
Which leads us to...
The Penguins Will Win the Presidents' Trophy
Is there any team in the NHL that is more defensively deep than the Pittsburgh Penguins? The Pens boast a great and deep blue line with names like Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. They have the shut down pair and they have scorer in Letang.
They also have plenty of offensive firepower with Crosby, Malkin, Jordan Staal, James Neal, and Tyler Kennedy.
Oh, let's not forget world class goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Pens' Power Play Will Be in the Top 5 in the League
Last year the Penguins' power play clicked at just 15.8 percent and was ranked 25th in the league.
This year with Crosby and Malkin back, the Penguins power play will click over 20 percent and special teams will be a major threat in their game.
Adding Crosby and Malkin to a power play along with James Neal makes the Penguins power play ruthless. Put in Letang and Michalek at the points and the Penguins have themselves a formidable power play that won't be stopped.
Their second unit will be good enough to be other team' first unit. Jordan Staal will center it with Tyler Kennedy and Chris Kunitz. Paul Martin and Matt Niskanen will take the points and wreak havoc.
Matt Cooke Will Learn His Lesson
Matt Cooke is the most hated man in hockey after a series of dangerous and reckless hits that have made him a target for Brendan Shanahan.
This is Cooke's last chance. Another wrong move and he will most likely be suspended for the season because of his status as a repeat offender.
A lot of people don't understand that Cooke is not just a goon. He is a valuable player. Because of this, he will alter the way he plays and still be successful on the ice. He will no longer go head hunting and his game adjustment will be more based on penalty killing and being a pesky trash talking winger.
He'll cut down on his checking but he doesn't need to rely on his hitting to bring value. He plays solid shut down defense and can score a few goals too.
Tyler Kennedy Will Build on His 2011 Season
Last season Tyler Kennedy was a major reason why the Penguins were able to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference. He scored 21 goals and 24 assists for 45 points. Now he will most likely be promoted to Malkin or Crosby's line. At worst, he will play on his old Cooke-Staal-Kennedy line which had so much chemistry in its heyday.
Either way, Kennedy is going to have a solid center on his line that will give him plenty of scoring opportunities. He'll take advantage of this and eclipse his 21 goal total from last season.
James Neal Will Click Well with Sid
The Penguins acquired James Neal last season so that he can be that winger the Penguins have been looking to find for Sidney Crosby.
Unfortunately, the two have yet to play with each other because of Crosby's concussion.
That will change when Crosby returns. They will form a lethal line featuring Neal, Crosby, and either Chris Kunitz or Pascal Dupuis.
Crosby can turn even the most marginal player into a scoring threat because of his playmaking abilities. Neal, who was already a solid scorer in Dallas, will now have the most valuable linemate in the NHL and he will definitely start taking advantage of that. Spending time on the power play with No. 87 won't hurt either.
Expect Neal to have a huge season with 30 or more goals.
The Penguins Will Defeat the Kings in Six Games in the Stanley Cup Final
The Kings have made several improvements by adding Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. They've also inked defenseman Drew Doughty for a long term deal. They have what it takes to make it to the Stanley Cup Final.
Last year when Sid was healthy the Penguins were literally unstoppable. They won 12 straight games at one point and Crosby had a 25-game point streak. With Malkin healthy and rejuvenated, teams are going to have a difficult time stopping these guys.
The most dominant season in Penguins history will end with a drink from Lord Stanley's Cup.