Who's Overachieving, Underachieving for the Pittsburgh Penguins so Far
Having shot to the top of their division, the Pittsburgh Penguins have benefited from the hot starts of some players and have been able to overcome the slow starts of others.
While players, just as teams, have their ups and downs over the course of a season, it's important to see who's leading the way and who's been struggling to keep up, especially on teams that have championship aspirations, such as the Penguins.
With the NHL season already more than a month old, let's take a look at who is overachieving and underachieving for the Pens so far.
Patric Hornqvist: Overachieving
When the Penguins acquired Patric Hornqvist in the deal the sent James Neal to the Nashville Predators this summer, they knew that they were getting a gritty player capable of contributing 50 points a season.
However, having already amassed nine goals and nine assists while playing on the first line, they couldn't have imagined that he would be on pace for a 100-point season.
Providing the net-front presence that they have lacked in recent years, Hornqvist has added a new dimension to the Pens offense and balance to a team that too often in the past has relied exclusively on skill to win.
Christian Ehrhoff: Underachieving
While most expected the Penguins to be quiet in free agency this past offseason, newly appointed general manager Jim Rutherford surprised everyone by signing Christian Ehrhoff, who had just recently been bought out by the Buffalo Sabres, to a one-year, $4 million contract.
Known as one of the best two-way defensemen in the NHL, Ehrhoff was expected to be an instant contributor on the offensive end and improve the Pens' ability to handle the forecheck from bigger teams, something that had given them problems in recent years.
While Ehrhoff has helped defensively, is a plus-five and is averaging more than 20 minutes of ice time per game, his expected offensive production has been lacking. Despite averaging 44 points per season over his career, he has yet to score a goal and only has four assists through 14 games.
Marc-Andre Fleury: Overachieving
While his detractors will point to the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury has had great starts to the regular season only to suffer collapses in the postseason, even they must admit that Fleury has been sensational thus far.
With a 2.16 goals-against average and three shutouts in his last seven games, Fleury has made a believer of Rutherford, who after seeming intent on waiting until the offseason to make a decision on Fleury's future, signed him to a four-year, $23 million deal this past week.
While the true verdict on Fleury's performance will once again be delayed until after the postseason, there's no doubt that he has had as good of a start to the 2014-15 season as anyone could have imagined.
Paul Martin: Underachieving
Playing out the final year of his contract with the Penguins and looking to explore free agency next summer, many expected Paul Martin to be traded at some point for scoring help.
Unfortunately, with just one goal and three assists through 14 games, his trade value may have taken a bit of a hit, as Kris Letang and Olli Maatta have gotten bigger roles on the power play, while all of Martin's points have come at even strength.
While he is averaging 22:01 of ice time per game, second on the team behind Letang, Martin's forte is distributing the puck, and the Pens will need him to get more involved in the offense going forward—assuming Martin remains in Pittsburgh.
Sidney Crosby: Overachieving
While it's hard to imagine that the defending Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner could actually be playing better this season than last season, Sidney Crosby's hot start in 2014-15 has him leading the league in scoring and on pace for a career year.
With 24 points in just 14 games, Crosby is on pace for 140 points this season, which would surpass his previous career high in points set during the 2006-07 season when he won his first Hart and Art Ross trophies.
Even more remarkable is the fact that Crosby's points-per-game average is up even as his average ice time (18:42 per game) under new head coach Mike Johnston is significantly down from what it was (21:58 per game) under Dan Bylsma last season.