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NHL Morning Papers

NHL Morning Papers: How far can Crosby carry Penguins?

After a 47 point improvement in the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins will no longer be surprising any teams in the National Hockey League. With the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal the Pens can now be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup threat heading into the 2007/08 season. With that said, the young, up-and coming squad is not without its fair share of question marks.

Here are five questions hockey fans have about the Penguins heading into 07/08:

Will the Penguins’ off-season acquisitions make a difference?

While youth and enthusiasm could have been considered as strengths last season, the lack of veteran presence and experience really seemed to hurt the Penguins in round one versus the Senators. With that in mind, general manager Ray Shero went out this off-season and added veterans Petr Sykora and Darryl Sydor to the mix. The Pens now have Sykora, Sydor, Recchi and Roberts in their dressing room which will provide the team with plenty of veteran leadership; never mind the fact that all four of these key veterans have won the Stanley Cup during the course of their respective careers. Expect the veteran additions to pay dividends come playoff time.

Is the defense good enough?

Having puck-moving defensemen in today’s fast-moving game is the key to a strong breakout and transition game. Luckily for the Pens, they possess two of the best puck-moving defenseman in the game with Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney. Unfortunately, their defensive unit drops off significantly after Gonchar and Whitney leaving the team with question marks on the back end. If Brooks Orpik can continue to be a physical force and Sydor can provide more puck-moving ability, the team should be able to score enough goals to make up for the team’s lack of defensive talent.

Is Marc-Andre Fleury the answer in net?

The former number one selection overall in the NHL draft has been under immense pressure to live up to expectations since arriving in the league. Thus far, the goaltender has been so-so, with much room for improvement. Fleury is a very athletic goalie, but he often over-commits on the shooter . Additionally, the young netminder has had his fair share of confidence issues over the past couple of years. Nonetheless, Fleury is amongst the most talented netminders in the league and should comfortably lead the Pens to a 40+ win season.

Is Michelle Therien on the hot seat?

The answer to this question is most likely yes. The former Habs’ bench boss is blessed with one of the most talented rosters in the entire NHL and it will be up to him to coral the Pens’ young talent and channel it towards a long playoff run. Therien is a coach who lives on the edge and is known to have a violent temper, the key to this season may be for him to maintain an even keel and let his talent play out. The talent is there to sustain a long playoff run, and with talent comes expectations. Therien will be under immense pressure this season in the Steeltown.

Can the Penguins win the Cup?

Absolutely they can. This is a team that has the best player in the world in Sidney Crosby and one of the best young centers to come along in a while in Evgeni Malkin. Both of these players possess the ability to carry a team on their own without much difficulty. Factor in such veteran scorers as Roberts, Recchi and Sykora, never mind 19 year old phenom Jordan Staal, and you have arguably the best offense in the NHL today. While the defense and goaltending are lacking in certain respects, every team in today’s salary cap era has question marks. Expect the Pens to contend for the Cup this year. In fact, it says here that Crosby and company face off in the Stanley Cup Finals versus the Sharks.

On to the morning papers:

For Illegal Curve, I’m Richard Pollock