With a lockout pending, NHL and CBA talks are taking over the hockey world. With those matters out of the fans hands, lets focus on the “What Ifs” of the Penguins upcoming season.
The biggest what-if will be the Penguins health. If the Penguins can stay relatively healthy all year, here are some predictions
Sidney Crosby will win the scoring title, posting 125 points (53G-62A) in 78 games played.
Evgeni Malkin will score over 100 points, and net 40-45 goals.
James Neal will put up a solid 35 goals, more even strength than his power-play goals.
Tyler Kennedy and Pascal Dupuis will each chip in 20-25 goals and Brandon Sutter along with Matt Cooke will post 16-20.
Simon Despres will earn a No.2 spot alongside Kris Letang and be the most feared Penguins defensive pairing due to their offense and skating ability.
Paul Martin will be paired with Matt Niskanen, providing leadership on the third line. He will also play 10x better than the previous two years. A nice summer off will get the Minnesota-natives head clear.
Orpik will split time with Lovejoy and Engelland and even potentially with Brian Dumoulin/Joe Morrow.
Defensive prospects should see a great amount of time in the league. The two to watch out for are listed above. Don’t be surprised to see Scott Harrington as well.
If Beau Bennett makes the big league squad and can stay up with the squad for a decent amount of time, especially on the top line with Crosby-Dupuis, expect the rookie from Denver to put up 26-30 goals and contend for the Calder Trophy.
Fleury will contend for Vezina coming off of a 42 win season, his NHL best. With a defense that will want to tighten up tremendously from their lackluster playoff performance, I can see Fleury playing outstanding.
Finishing one point behind the New York Rangers for 1st in the Eastern Conference, the Penguins will come back stronger and tighter than last year, to finish first in the Atlantic and East by several points.
Playoff predictions will come up if/when there is a season and how the Penguins perform during the season.
Feel free to post your comments and your own predictions.