Eastern preview: Penguins lose toughness

Eastern preview: Penguins lose toughness
September 8, 2013, 10:15 am
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Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jussi Jokinen (36) and defenseman Kris Letang (center) and center Tyler Kennedy (48) celebrate a goal by Letang as Ottawa Senators defenseman Jared Cowen (2) reacts during the second period in game five of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 6-2.

(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

2012-13: 25-17-6, 56 points

Where they finished: 1st in the Atlantic; 1st in the East; 2nd in the NHL

Coach: Dan Bylsma [6th season]

Key additions: D Rob Scuderi, RW Matt D’Agostini, C Nick Drazenovic, C Andrew Ebbett, RW Chris Conner

Key subtractions: RW Jarome Iginla, RW Tyler Kennedy, LW Matt Cooke, LW Brendan Morrow, C Philippe Dupuis, C Trevor Smith, D Douglas Murray, D Mark Eaton

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Pascal Dupuis

Beau Bennett – Evgeni Malkin – James Neal

Tanner Glass – Brandon Sutter – Jussi Jokinen

Joe Vitale – Craig Adams – Dustin Jeffrey

Defense

Kris Letang – Paul Martin

Matt Niskanen – Brooks Orpik

Rob Scuderi – Deryk Engelland

Goaltenders

Marc-Andre Fleury – Tomas Vokoun

Our take: When you sign your top defenseman [Kris Letang] to an 8-year, $58 million contract, you’re forced to trim fat in other areas and that’s what Pens general manager Ray Shero did this summer by trading forward Tyler Kennedy and letting Matt Cooke and Jarome Iginla go via free agency.

The end result is that the Penguins will be top-heavy in forward talent, with little punch in the bottom six. But with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as your top two centers it’s hard to go wrong. The Penguins actually strengthened an experienced blue line with the addition of fan favorite Rob Scuderi, who should be a solid fifth defenseman.

The real question for the Pens is between the pipes, where Marc-Andre Fleury will attempt to regain his No. 1 job after losing it to Tomas Vokoun in the playoffs. It was Fleury’s second straight shaky post-season and he’ll need to be more consistent if the Pens hope to challenge for a Stanley Cup.

Offseason Grade:  C

Will they make the playoffs in 2013-14:  Yes.