The Pens have made some serious changes to the roster in the offseason as well as changing their head coach and general manager. But are they better? Find out what this expert handicapper recommends.
Fleury Not Convinced Pens Are A Cup Contender, Neither Are Bettors
The media caught up with Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury on Wednesday and he had some interesting comments to make. Fleury echoed what many fans (and those placing NHL picks) have felt all along: the Pens shakeup behind the bench and in the front office doesn’t necessarily change their chances of winning a Stanley Cup. He said that he doesn’t know if it will get them to the Cup but the new ideas and new systems should be good for the team. Bettors feel pretty much the same as they are quite skeptical of the Pens, who have been a Stanley Cup favorite almost every preseason over the last five years up until now.
Fleury’s A Question Himself
Before Fleury can question anybody else on the team, he should have a good look in the mirror. He’s one of the main reasons why the Pens have gone from a perennial Stanley Cup contender to a postseason disappointment. The former first overall pick has been steady in the regular season but has been a nightmare come playoff time.
The Pens won the Stanley Cup with Fleury in the 2008-09 season when he went 16-8 with a 2.61 GAA and .908 save percentage. Even those numbers aren’t that good as the team won in spite of him; not because of him. Between 2009-2013, Fleury was horrible in the playoffs, going 14-16 with a save percentage of about .890 and a GAA of about 3.00. Last year, he appeared to have gotten past his issues as the Pens made it to the second round and got ahead 3-1 on the New York Rangers, but he collapsed in the final three games of the series, posting an .891 save percentage as the Pens lost Games 5, 6 and 7.
If the Pens are to get any further in the playoffs, it starts with him. He needs to get a lot better.
Has Pens Shakeup Improved The Team?
On the blue line, the Pens lost key cogs Matt Niskanen (Washington Capitals) and Brooks Orpik (Washington), as well as a depth defenseman in Deryk Engelland (Calgary Flames). Although all got ridiculous salaries from their new teams, money aside, the Pens still have some holes to fill – even with the splash signing of Christian Ehrhoff.
Up front, the same can be said for as Joe Vitale (Arizona Coyotes), Tanner Glass (New York Rangers) and Jussi Jokinen (Florida Panthers) all bounced. James Neal was also traded to the Nashville Predators.
In their stead, the Pens re-signed Marcel Goc, who was acquired at the trade deadline, and signed Blake Comeau and Steve Downie. In the Neal trade, they also picked up Patric Hornqvist.
On the whole, it’s clear the Pens are employing a youth movement. Hornqvist for Neal might be a lateral move – one that even turns out better for Pittsburgh. But Neal, Jokinen and Niskanen were fourth, fifth and sixth on the team in scoring. This is a team that finished second in the East in scoring and will be hard-pressed to be top five in that category again.
The Pens changes leave them as a playoff wild card at best. Before, they were a sure shot and one that could have won the Cup if Fleury played well. Now they don’t have the same type of depth and will have a hard time getting out of the first or second round of the playoffs unless their youngsters – players that we don’t know a whole lot about yet – can start delivering.
Free NHL Pick: For now, stay away from the Pens futures at 12/1 right now. Check out sportbooks like William Hill for other valuable betting options.