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Old 02-21-2007, 07:58 AM   #1101
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Bob Smizik: Penguins' turnaround defies odds

Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

How did this happen?

Here are, in no particular order, the top five reasons why the Penguins are where they are today, according to Bob Smizik:

Jordan Staal: He wasn't supposed to make the team. In the slight likelihood he did, he would be along for the ride to kill penalties and play on a fourth line. After all, he is only 18. He was barely old enough to be drafted. But he has 24 goals and has moved from center to left wing to give the Penguins a formidable second line. Not bad for a kid who scored 28 goals in Juniors last year.

Sidney Crosby: Everyone knew he was marked for greatness. But at 19? He leads the league in scoring with a 15-point lead over Vincent Lecavalier. The 16th-leading scorer in the league is closer to Lecavalier than Lecavalier is to Crosby.

Evgeni Malkin: He will do what Crosby could not do last year -- win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. He leads all rookies in scoring by 14 points. His 67 points are double the output of all but three NHL rookies. He's on pace to score 93 points, a Crosbyesque total.

Marc-Andre Fleury (left): He's living up to the hype that comes with being the first pick in the draft. His 29 wins are fourth best in the NHL. Despite being only 22, he's developing into a franchise-type goalie. It's looking more and more like the Penguins made a serious mistake by not keeping him with the team at the start of last season.

Michel Therrien: Best known as a harsh disciplinarian when he took over the team last season, Therrien has been tough but also flexible enough to let his young team grow. He installed a system that makes their NHL growth come easier.In the recent history of professional sports, there have been rare occasions when a team has gone from last place to first place in one year. The Atlanta Braves, for example, went from sixth and last place to first place in 1991. The advent of free agency in all sports and the ability it gives teams to make an almost immediate and drastic revamping of their roster, along with a trend toward smaller divisions, makes this unusual development possible.

But here's what would figure to be impossible.

Going from last to last to last to last to first.

That's what the Penguins, who are 14-1-2 in their past 17 games, are attempting to do. After four consecutive sixth and last-place finishes, the Penguins aren't just playoff contenders, they're candidates to finish first in the Atlantic Division and a threat to any team in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

It's questionable whether the Penguins' furious charge up the NHL standings eventually will carry them to first place in the Atlantic Division -- they trail New Jersey by seven points -- but the mere fact the subject is up for discussion is testimony to one of the great revivals in sports history.

No one expected this. There was hope the team would make the playoffs, which often does not require a winning record. But the Penguins are 32-18-9 going into their game tomorrow night at Florida. Considering the team's youth, their slow start was not unexpected, but now the Penguins are among the elite of the league.

With 23 games remaining, they already have 10 more wins than last season and nine more than the previous season.

It has all served to markedly increase the interest in the Penguins. Games are regularly sold out, and there is a distinct buzz about the team that hasn't been here since the 2000-01 season, when Mario Lemieux was at the height of his comeback and the Penguins were thick with talented veterans. That's the beauty of this team and why the buzz is so intense. It's thin with talented veterans. Mark Recchi, at 39, is enjoying a memorable season -- 20 goals and 55 points. Sergei Gonchar, 32, is the second-leading scorer among NHL defensemen. There are five other players over 30, 14 in their 20s and two teenagers. Eleven of the team's players were born in the 1980s.

It is too early to call this a dynasty in the making but such a future is not out of the question. What makes that future even brighter is that the Penguins will become a desired destination for free agents. With the salary cap in place, there's not a tremendous difference between what teams can pay free agents. Why not come to Pittsburgh where a championship team is being built? If you're a winger, why not come to Pittsburgh and play beside Crosby or with Malkin and Staal?

It looks like all those last places are soon to be equaled and surpassed by first places.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07052/763657-194.stm
WOW!!! Finally an editorial by Smizik that isn't negative!!! Very well written and right on the money. These guys are gelling with each other quite nicely and Therrien being patient and trying different line combos until he found the right mixes has really paid off. Not too many teams out there who can boast of having 4 productive lines.

While I am obviously quite impressed and ecstatic over both Crosby's and Malkin's development, I am pleasantly shocked at how well Jordan Staal has started coming into his own. I, like many others, thought the Pens would ship him off to Juniors this season but this kid has well earned his spot on the team - he's played amazingly well for a young man barely 18 years old.

This season has been very exciting for us Pens fans and I have a feeling the best is yet to come!
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Old 02-21-2007, 08:50 AM   #1102
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Gei is my fave, but Jarkko is climbing up my fave ladder rather quickly, LOL!

Excellent article, XT, and very much on point. It's nice to see Gonchar finally getting the credit he deserves. He was on the ice almost non-stop and held things together while Eaton was out and together they make quite the dynamic duo. Many fans don't bother to look at his defensive abilities and talents. I laugh at some of these people at the games who expect him to rough it up - that isn't his schtick and never has been. I'm glad the Pens realize the gem they have in Gonchar - I clearly saw it last season amid the boos and hisses coming from the stands.
Yeah I know - there were many times you wanted to give some of those "fans" a water shower - LOL! The sad part of this is if he finishes in the top 3 or 5 in scoring among defensemen, he won't get any consideration at all for the Norris Trophy, even though he'd have outscored some likely candidates as Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and maybe Sheldon Souray. He is only one point behind Niklas Lidstrom right now, who will most likely win it even though it's possible Gonchar could outscore him. The reason? Lidstrom's a +38, which leads the league, while Gonchar's a -1 right now. But it is nice to see get some credit for the job he's done this season.
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Old 02-21-2007, 08:57 AM   #1103
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WOW!!! Finally an editorial by Smizik that isn't negative!!! Very well written and right on the money. These guys are gelling with each other quite nicely and Therrien being patient and trying different line combos until he found the right mixes has really paid off. Not too many teams out there who can boast of having 4 productive lines.

While I am obviously quite impressed and ecstatic over both Crosby's and Malkin's development, I am pleasantly shocked at how well Jordan Staal has started coming into his own. I, like many others, thought the Pens would ship him off to Juniors this season but this kid has well earned his spot on the team - he's played amazingly well for a young man barely 18 years old.

This season has been very exciting for us Pens fans and I have a feeling the best is yet to come!
My jaw hit the floor too when I read this - Smizik must have hit the wacky weed last night - LOL! I think Michel Therrien deserves a lot of credit for Staal's development, but the kid has helped himself with his natural talent and tremendous hockey sense that many veterans don't possess. You can't teach that - you either have it or you don't. How many 18 year olds are counted on late in games for defense, or to kill an important power play in OT? It truly is an amazing story. Wow...just thinking about all this talent on the team right now, and that they will all get better...it's a scary thought. It's a dynasty in the making, no question about it.
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Old 02-21-2007, 09:24 AM   #1104
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Here's to being 15-1-2 when we finish the Florida game.
Standings as of February 21. I figure if we play .500 hockey for the rest of the season we should be around 97 points (give or take). That should be more than enough to grab a playoff spot. Play .500 hockey for the rest of the season and we should be fine. We just can't afford to go on a losing skid. I would like to see us take 3 out of a possible 4 points during our upcoming Florida trip.

Eastern Conference:

1 Buffalo - 60 - 40 - 15 - 5 - 85
2 New Jersey - 60 - 37 - 17 - 6 - 80
3 Tampa Bay - 61 - 34 - 24 - 3 - 71
4 Pittsburgh - 59 - 32 - 18 - 9 - 73
5 Ottawa - 60 - 35 - 22 - 3 - 73
6 Atlanta - 62 - 31 - 22 - 9 - 71
7 Montreal - 62 - 31 - 25 - 6 - 68
8 Carolina 62 30 25 7 67

Toronto - 60 - 29 - 23 - 8 - 66
NY Islanders - 60 - 29 - 23 - 8 - 66
NY Rangers - 60 - 29 - 26 - 5 - 63
Boston - 59 - 29 - 26 - 4 - 62
Florida - 61 - 23 - 26 - 12 - 58
Washington - 60 - 23 - 28 - 9 - 55
Philadelphia - 60 - 16 - 36 - 8 - 40

Western Conference:

1 Nashville - 61 - 40 - 18 - 3 - 83
2 Anaheim - 61 - 35 - 16 - 10 - 80
3 Vancouver - 60 - 35 - 21 - 4 - 74
4 Detroit - 60 - 38 - 16 - 6 - 82
5 San Jose - 59 - 36 - 22 - 1 - 73
6 Dallas - 59 - 35 - 21 - 3 - 73
7 Minnesota - 61 - 33 - 23 - 5 - 71
8 Calgary - 60 - 31 - 21 - 8 - 70

Colorado - 60 - 29 - 27 - 4 - 62
Edmonton - 60 - 28 - 26 - 6 - 62
St. Louis - 61 - 26 - 26 - 9 - 61
Chicago - 59 - 22 - 28 - 9 - 53
Phoenix - 60 - 25 - 32 - 3 - 53
Columbus - 60 - 23 - 31 - 6 - 52
Los Angeles - 61 - 20 - 31 - 10
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Old 02-21-2007, 09:40 AM   #1105
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Maybe send a draft pick.
If Shero really feels the need to pick up an enforcer, the way I look at it is that Anson Carter is 32 years old and is 6'1 210. In the 53 games he has played this season he has 10 goals, 17 assists and is at a -1.

Then I look at the other supposed trade rumor.......

Georges Laraque who's name has been thrown around for almost a month now is 30 years old and is 6'3 243. In 56 games he has played this season he has 5 goals 17 assists and is at a + 7.

Once again, if Shero even plans on grabbing an enforcer in the next six days I guess I would rather see him go after Laraque. I personally don't think there is a strong demand for Laraque out on the market at this point in time so I'm guessing maybe a 2nd round pick should do the job? Just a guess on my part.
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Old 02-21-2007, 10:23 AM   #1106
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I have never been to a Penguins game, EVER! Who is taking me?
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Old 02-21-2007, 11:01 AM   #1107
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I have never been to a Penguins game, EVER! Who is taking me?
You are more than welcome to attend a game with me and I'm sure XT would enjoy your company as well! Between the 2 of us, we have 5 home games left, as well as tickets on the way for the playoff package!
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Old 02-21-2007, 01:54 PM   #1108
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I saw this coming. If he plays well against the Panthers I would start him against Tampa Bay....

Thibault to start in goal Thursday for Penguins
Wednesday, February 21, 2007

By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Jocelyn Thibault will start in goal when the Penguins play the Florida Panthers in Miami tomorrow, coach Michel Therrien said today.

Thibault has been the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury this season, posting a 3-5-2 record. Fleury is 29-13-7.

The decision to start Thibault comes after Therrien was critical of Fleury's play in a 6-5 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday. The Islanders scored the winning goal with just under 27 seconds left in the game, ending the Penguins 16-game streak of being unbeaten in regulation play.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07052/763789-61.stm
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Old 02-21-2007, 06:19 PM   #1109
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May not be bad for Fleury. Save him but also play him so that way he's ready for the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how he plays against the Panthers.
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Old 02-21-2007, 07:59 PM   #1110
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May not be bad for Fleury. Save him but also play him so that way he's ready for the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how he plays against the Panthers.
If it were one or two games with Fleury I could understand why some fans are asking "why?". But his play has been dropping the last four or five games. I believe Therrien has enough confidence in Thibault. On top of that, I feel he actually feels Fleury needs a 'longer' break.

It's strange though, the last time Fleury played the Panthers he shut them out. I do have to wonder if Therrien is better off playing Fleury against the Panthers and then playing Thibault against the Bolts? Who knows though? Much like with Therrien's trading/player decisions, I really can't complain about Therrien "plugging" the players he has been dealt. I'll take his word for it.
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