After a 113 day lockout that shortened the 2012-2013 NHL season to the 48 game shortened 2013 NHL season we are finally 6 short days till puck drop, as we all look ahead to the upcoming season I have compiled the top 5 keys to the Stanley Cup returning to Pittsburgh for the first time since after the 2008-2009 NHL season when the Penguins defeated the Redwings 4 games to 3. 1) A MVP season from Evgeni Malkin: 2011-2012 was a career defining MVP season from number 71. With post concussion syndrome limiting captain Sidney Crosby to 22 games, Malkin had a career high goals to go along with 59 assists for 109 points (3 hat tricks as well). 2012-2013 needs to see the same MVP play from Malkin for the Pens to make a deep playoff run.
2) A healthy Sidney Crosby: Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two plus years you know the concussion/neck issues Crosby, arguably the most dynamic payer in the NHL, has dealt with. First it was a concussion followed by rehab and a short lived return to the ice, and then it was revealed that it may have been a fractured neck the whole time. In spite of past injury the Penguins desperately need Crosby to return to pre injury form. With a healthy Crosby in the line up the sky is the limit for the Penguins. 3) Blue line help: As every Penguins fan across the county from New York to Seattle witnessed in the first round defeat to the rival Flyers, the Pens need blue line help. After Letang and Orpik the Pens are a little thin on the blue line, now while they did address this in the draft this past summer, it is still a pressing issue that could ultimately derail the Pens Stanley Cup aspirations. 4) Overcoming divisional opponents : It’s no secret that the Atlantic Division is the best division in the NHL, if not the best division in all of sports. The Atlantic Division has 3 potential Stanley Cup winners, the Pens, Flyers, and the Rangers. As we learned last season the Atlantic Division will be tightly contested, and in this lockout shortened season points are at a premium, and with a schedule that sees the Pens opening on the road against the Flyers and Rangers and playing a lot of divisional games the pens must start fast and hit hard against our division rivals. 5) The reemergence of Marc-Andre Fleury The goalie every Penguins fan knows and (most) love, commonly referred to as the flower, needs to have a 08-09 season to forget that dreadful Eastern Conference Quarter Finals against the Philadelphia Flyers and an equally atrocious Bryzgalov. The flower allowed 26 goals, had a GAA of 4.63 and a SV% of 0.834. Now that the Penguins have added Tomas Vokoun as a credible backup (compared to Brent Johnson) that may motivate Fleury to play his best with his job and future with the Pens could be cloudy with another disappointing first round exit. (On a side note my friend and fellow pens fan Sean will probably not be too thrilled with my unwavering support of Fleury as I do think he can be a top 5 goalie in the NHL)
Key offseason Additions: Brandon Sutter: Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes in the Jordan Staal trade Tanner Glass: Signed as a free agent to add some muscle when we play the Flyers Thomas Vokoun: Signed as a free agent to back up Marc-Andre Fleury, in case he has another bad stretch like against the Flyers in the playoffs last season, and it seemed like when the Pens played Brent Johnson last season they had to put up a minimum of 5 goals to secure a victory. Make sure to follow me on twitter @pensdude1 GO PENS GO
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