Most bizarre stat: Pens are 0-8-1 when trailing after two periods.
Fives things to look at in the next 42.
5. The Defense
The defense betrayed the Penguins late last season and in the playoffs. Moves were made to prevent that from happening again. In the first 40 games, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin have been solid. Michalek blocks more shots than MADD. Paul Martin has made less than five mistakes all season, three of which happened in the Winter Classic. A shutdown defenseman like Michalek will thrive in the playoffs. And Paul Martin has been on the cusp of scoring several huge goals at a few points this season. Michalek has, as well. Now that they have settled in, the Pens D will only get crisper.
What's interesting is that it's taken us till the second paragraph of this to mention Kris Letang's emergence as a point-producing defenseman, filling the Gonchar void that we thought couldn't be filled. This isn't even a paragraph anyway. Engelland and Lovejoy have proven to be steady 6th d-men, but they ain't in "Mark Eaton is a solid 6th d-man" territory yet. Orpik is Orpik. And Goligoski is Ryan Whitney.
If MAF has a big second half, he could put himself in the Vezina conversation. After his shitty start, he has been outstanding. If he picks up another 20 wins and lowers his GAA, look out. And, really, regardless of stats, a strong performance down the stretch may be the only thing needed to silence the haters for good. That, and another ring.
3. The Playoff picture.
And now, to really make you sick, if the playoffs started today:
After the first round, every Eastern Conference series may go 7 games.
2. Staal and Malkin
This is kind of like that movie you have been waiting for to come out, and now it's finally here. After not seeing him play for half a seaso,n you forget how valuable Staal is. Immediately apparent in the WC was how much room Staal is able to create room for Malkin.
1. Who won't be here after the trade deadline?
Compared to Trade-Deadline Day, the Winter Classic is trash. It's one of the best days of the year, and it will be no different this season. Ray Shero has made some kind of move at every trade deadline during his tenture. So will he make one this year? Hard to say.
In one hand, it is a close team, one that's been near the top of the league after a crap start. In the other hand is a team that has been carried entirely by the offensive production of Sidney Crosby. We're sitting around waiting for Malkin to start producing some more, and that's basically it. So something might happen.
It is a tough year for the Pens because they have tons of free-agents-to-be, so some guys will be walking regardless. Also, we highly doubt Shero is going to trade any prospects or draft picks. The salary cap will come into play, too. There are some teams that will probably be blowing things up this year. Get used to looking at the Oilers' and Flames' rosters. If we had to make a prediction, we still say the Penguins need another top-six forward. Comrie never panned out, and Guerin was never replaced, even from the Cup year. If the price is right, you almost have to believe that is what Shero will do. Go Pens.