Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Victory march of the Penguins

Jordan Staal celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators by high fiving teammates with this tacky but completely accurate piece of fan gear.

Last year's Stanley Cup Champions are proving they are now more experienced and confident than ever, cruising to a 5-1 record. Adding their Monday night strong 4-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators to an impressive list of wins, the Pittsburgh Penguins are tied with the New York Rangers for the best record in the NHL.

Perhaps most impressively, the Pens' season record comes as a result of a 4-0 record on the road.

Goalie Marc Andre Fleury has said he isnt nervous this year like he used to be, just focused. The result is only 15 goals against in 6 games.

Team Captain, hockey wunderkind, Mario Lemieux protege, and my boyfriend (no, I haven't told him yet...) Sidney Crosby has turned his one weakness - faceoffs - into a strength. His 63.2% success rate puts him sixth best in the NHL.

In addition, Crosby has been putting points on the scoreboard, and he isnt the only one. One of the Pens' strengths is how many players they have who get the puck in the net. Tyler Kennedy (who scored 2 goals against Ottowa in last night's game), Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Bill Guerin, Matt Cooke, Ruslan Fedotenko are part of a long list of players who have scored this season. Even defensemen Sergei Gonchar, Mark Eaton, and Alex Goligoski have contributed goals. There is basically no player an opponent can afford to discount, because all are so effectively used as goal scoring weapons.

They retained the vast majority of the players who helped them to a Stanley Cup victory last year, and as a result they are more functional as a unit than ever. They read each other and work together beautifully and it shows. There isn't one player leading the others, such as Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals. Instead, the would-be heroes Malkin and Crosby are humble, crediting their teammates with every bit of the team's and their own success in every interview, and passing to teammates with better angles for shots on goal, rather than trying to make the goals themselves. This is part of the reason for the long list of team goal scorers, and part of the reason for the long list of wins.

On the ice the Pens are all intricately aware of where each other are. They have been through the emotional highs and lows. They've gone as far as you can get in the NHL, and they've won. This year they appear poised to do it again as they have taken all their raw talent and fine tuned it into a well oiled machine.

While it is still early in the season and there are many games yet to go, the Penguins look as energetic, determined, and fierce as last year, but with a more polished game and confident - but not cocky - attitude. There is nothing to add but keep up the good work.

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