Pittsburgh Penguins: The Stretch Run
Now that the Olympics are over and Sidney Crosby has yet another achievement under his belt, it’s time for the final run to the playoffs for the Penguins. Let’s start by looking at the trade deadline and what the Penguins did.
Two days prior to the Trade Deadline, the Pens traded away their 2010 2nd Round Pick to the Florida Panthers for Jordan Leopold. GM Ray Shero made this move to sure up the defense and that is hopefully what Leopold will bring. He is a solid player who should bring something extra to the defense. Leopold was used by Florida as a shutdown defense men on Alexander Ovechkin, which most likely will come in handy as the Penguins and Capitals could meet again in the playoffs.
My analysis: I am not a fan of giving up draft picks especially 1st or 2nd ones, however in this case a defensive upgrade was needed and this move made sure that the Penguins did not lose any players off of their current squad.
On Tuesday, after the game against Buffalo, Ray Shero made a move to pick up Alexei Ponikarovsky from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Poni is a big forward (6′4, 220lbs) and provides skill and experience. The Penguins traded away Martin Skoula (about time) and also Luca Caputi from Wilkes-Barre. I was disappointed to see Caputi go because he was not only lighting it up in the AHL but also had played some on the big club and many people were expecting to see him on the big club next year. He should get a chance at starting sooner than that in Toronto and I wish him the best of luck.
Poni has been an underachiever and hopefully will fit better on the line with Evgeni Malkin. Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma want to keep the Crosby, Guerin, and Kunitz line together so on Malkin’s line is the most likely spot. Unfortunately, Poni will not be available to play tonight against New York as he is still working on getting his U.S. work visa.
My analysis: I did not like giving up Luca Caputi but time will tell if this move was a good one or not. Poni is a big body and will hopefully improve a little with the talent of Evgeni Malkin. I think most Pens fans are glad to see Skoula gone and wish him the best of luck in New Jersey (where Toronto turned around and traded him to). He should fit in a little better there.
The only other move the Penguins made was to trade defense men Chris Peluso from Wilkes-Barre for a 6th round pick to Toronto.
With all of that said, I feel like the Pens did a good job. This year, the trade deadline was a little lack luster and there were not a whole lot of sellers which made the cost of buying higher. I think the Pens made out quite well and did not overpay for the two trades that they made.
Now it is time for the Penguins to begin their run for Playoff positioning. They currently sit in the 4th spot with 78 points. They are one point back from division leader New Jersey, but New Jersey does have one game in hand. Washington has a pretty solid position with the 1st spot as they are 13 points ahead of New Jersey who sits at number 2. Spots 2 through 5 have their own little race going along with spots 6 through 13. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
The Pens have 19 games left and I am hoping they find themselves a number 2 or 3 seed. It will be interesting to see if they can jump over New Jersey for the division lead.
On a side note, I was quite impressed with the Pittsburgh fans on Tuesday night when they had a standing ovation for Buffalo Sabres goaltender, Ryan Miller who played amazingly for team USA in the Olympics. Of course, then some fans let me down by booing Crosby when they should him with his game winning goal. Yes, I would have rather had the USA win as well, but no reason to boo someone who has done so much for the Penguins and continues to play his heart out.
Let’s Go Pens!