The Pittsburgh Penguins enter the 2013-2014 season in much the same way as they have the last few; high expectations, tons of offensive firepower, and plenty of questions on defense and in goal.
There’s no disputing that the Penguins are one of, if not the best offensive team in the league. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin expected to be healthy and in top form that just goes without saying. Youngsters like Beau Bennett and Matt D’Agostini could benefit immensely from the type of forwards they’ll be playing with this year. Brandon Sutter should also continue to progress in his first full season with the club as he centers the third line and will see plenty of ice against other team’s third pair defenseman.
Defensively the Penguins bring back the same group but that might not be a good thing. Kris Letang is one of the elite offensive defenseman in the league and that should continue again this year. Paul Martin also has thrived offensively in this system and players like Deryk Engelland and Brooks Orpik are gritty and in your face types of players. The problem for the Penguins is that no matter how well this group plays during the regular season everyone is going to expect them to collapse once they get to the playoffs. Obviously the forwards not helping out is a big part of their failures but this club needs to find a way to be more consistent in their own end come playoff time. We know they’re going to be there, they’ve just got too much offensive talent during the regular season to miss out. What they need to do is find a way to put it all together come April.
In goal Marc-Andre Fleury will again be the No. 1 netminder despite his epic playoff debacles the last few years. Many people, myself included, thought that it was time for Pittsburgh to move on but general manager Ray Shero believes in Fleury for whatever reason. He’s got two years left on his contract but this season should go a long way toward deciding whether or not he signs an extension in Pittsburgh. He’s already been shaky in the preseason and the last thing him or this club needs is for him to get off to a rough start.
Regardless of whether or not Fleury sticks as the No. 1 for the duration of the season, this club is just too talented up front. Their power play is lethal and in today’s game that cures a lot of ailments, at least during the regular season. Until proven otherwise the expectations for this club are huge over the course of 82 games and minimal once they reach the second season.