Tag Archives: evgeni malkin

Is Evgeni Malkin Pittsburgh’s Most Important Penguin?

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For the second time in his career Evgeni Malkin has had to the man in Pittsburgh…

For the second time Malkin has made me ask myself this question, who really is the most important Penguin in Pittsburgh?

Three years ago during the Pens title run Sidney Crosby missed 28 games due to injury and the Pens didn’t miss a beat. It was mostly thanks to Malkin who did his best Crosby impersonation by racking up points and making life miserable for defenders.

Malkin finished second in the league in scoring to Alex Ovechkin and was a Hart trophy finalist also losing out to Ovechkin.

Fast forward to this season and here we are again. Same scenario just a different year. Crosby has missed the majority of the last two seasons thanks to a concussion suffered in last year’s Winter Classic. The Pens were supposed to falter, they were supposed to be a middle of the road team without the league’s biggest star…

So how in the hell are they 1 point back of the New York Rangers for the best record in the Eastern Conference with they’re second straight 100 point season and are the hottest team in the league?

Geno Malkin of course.

This year more than ever Malkin has proven himself to be considered a franchise alpha dog and even the best player in the league. He leads the league in points, is second in goals behind Steven Stamkos and has turned James Neal into a premier goal scorer on his line.

The Pens have done more than not lose a step without Crosby, in fact they have taken a giant step. With Malkin steering the ship Pittsburgh has maintained its elite status and looks just as invincible as if Crosby never left. Even if they don’t overtake the Rangers for the best record in the East you would still have to say that they are the favorites to represent the conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.

There’s no player hotter than Malkin in the league, Marc-Andre Fleury is finally playing at an elite level on a consistent basis, and Kris Letang, Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Jordan Staal have to be the most explosive role players in the league right now.

Adding Crosby to the mix now that his concussion has subsided makes them the scariest team on the ice right now.

However, down the road if you are Pittsburgh you have to ask yourself, is Crosby or Malkin your most valuable player?

Yes Crosby is a former MVP, gold medal winner, and captain of the Penguins, but is he their most important player?

Crosby has now missed big parts of the seasons due to injury. In all three seasons the Penguins have secured home ice for at least one round of the playoffs and Malkin has been the reason for two of those three occurrences.

Last year’s early playoff exit you can’t blame on Crosby’s injury or Malkin’s for that matter, but rather the lack of production from the wings. With the emergence of Neal and others the Penguins are cup contenders this year with Malkin leading the way and without Crosby on the ice.

If the roles were reversed could Crosby do the same?

Could Crosby make his teammates around him this good? Could he make the Pens a contender with Malkin? Could his goal scoring match his passing skills and get the Pens out of jams like Malkin?

Honestly I don’t think so.

I think this is Malkin’s ship and Crosby is along for the ride. If I’m Dan Bylsma I wouldn’t mess with the chemistry of his top line by inserting Crosby back in. Yes you aren’t supposed to lose your starting role do to injury but why mess with something that’s working so well?

Watching the Pens over the next few weeks will be interesting. They’re peaking right before the playoffs, their special teams are working and with Crosby back in the lineup it makes them even more lethal.

However, this is due to the play of Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has made them a contender, the most lethal offensive team in the league and has them staring at a second Stanley Cup in the last four years.

He is going to win the points title, he is the MVP of the NHL, and most importantly he’s the most valuable Pittsburgh Penguin on that roster.

They’ve proven that they can live without Sidney Crosby time and time again, if they were to lose Malkin I don’t think the results would be the same.


Thank God Hockey’s Back (NHL Preview)

It's been an offseason to forget in the NHL

If you thought the NBA offseason has been hell then you don’t have the slightest idea about rough. The NHL’s offseason has been a public relations nightmare. The summer was supposed to be about the celebration of the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup after 40 years of futility. Instead every other day there was a tragedy on the ice.

Rick Rypien, Wade Belak and the KHL Lokomotiv franchise’s plane crash that killed all passengers aboard including former NHL-ers Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and Brad McCrimmon to name a few cast a shadow of the sport and brought sadness to everyone over the sport.

Add that to the fact that Rangers bruiser Derek Boogaard died towards the end of last season and you understand the somber mood that the NHL might seem to be in.

When looking at ESPN fashion guru Paul Lukas’s annual uniform design review there were less designs for jerseys and more decals and patches for fallen players. It’s like the NHL has become a graveyard instead the coolest game on earth.

If any sport needs to start their season and get back to the brilliant play on the playing surface it’s this league. Ever since the lockout 0f 2004-05 the NHL has been on a roll. The talent on the ice is the highest that it’s been since the mid to late 90’s with the emergence of the Paul Kariya’s, Keith Tkachuk’s and Mike Modano’s of the world.

The NHL has so many great players playing at a high level that it’s becoming hard to keep up with all of them. At first it was the hype of Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Dion Phaneuf. Then came Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler. Now we have kids like Ryan Nugent- Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Tyler Myers and others who are crowding the ice and making noise.

The Bruins are ready to repeat.

It’s not like the NBA in terms of star power but it’s a beautiful thing to watch when the games are flowing. There are great players on every team in the league and most are under the age of 27.  Every night in every city there is a reason to watch a game just to catch one of these young studs whether it’s Drew Doughty in Los Angeles or Jeff Skinner in Carolina. Even with the sports brightest star status still in doubt (Sidney Crosby is still having post-concussion issues) the league is as strong as it’s ever been and is staring one of its most competitive season in decades in the face.

This year there is no real clear cut favorite. Gone are the days of Detroit being the front runner in the league every year, nowadays they’re not even the favorites in their own division. There are 10 to 14 teams that have a realistic chance at winning the Stanley Cup this year whether it is because of their goaltending, offensive prowess or just the fact they have all of the right pieces in place to make a run at the cup.

The right pieces meaning the right balance of youth and experience. In the modern NHL the young teams win championships as seen with the Penguins, Blackhawks and Bruins in the last three years. Yes I know Tim Thomas is old as dirt and Zdeno Chara is no spring chicken, but the work put in by guys like Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand helped this team win the Stanley Cup last year. Unlike in other sports where the older teams win the titles the young ones take the crown in the NHL.

So who has the best shot at winning the crown this year? Well in order…

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Now I know what you’re thinking… who the hell will score goals for them? Their leader in goals had 23 and their points leader scored 50. The Predators are the NHL version of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2000’s, they can’t score to save their lives, but no one can score on them. The backline led by Shea Weber along with Vezina finalist Pekka RInne were in the top 5 in goals allowed per game and the teams tough defensive play gave teams fits. If they get two goals a game they could win another 44 games and find themselves fighting for the crown.

BUFFALO SABRES

They can score in bunches thanks to Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford. Tyler Myers heads a steady backline and Ryan Miller is one the game’s best goalies. They failed to take care of the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs last year but if Miller stays on top of his game they can go very far.

MONTREAL CANADIENS

Team Teemu and the Ducks have a shot at the crown.

 

Once upon a time the Habs had more titles than the New York Yankees after raising their 24th Cup in 1993. Ever since they’ve been one big roller coaster, which has included numerous changes in net and on the bench and they haven’t had a real identity for a long time. Now they seem settled on Carey Price who came through big for them last year shaking off an up and down 2009-20 season that had him on the bench in the playoffs. This team isn’t too loaded with playmakers but it gets the job done with guys like Tomas Plekanec and Mike Cammalleri as well as dark horse Norris candidate P.K. Subban patrolling the blue line. They can make a run as long as they can hold onto a lead unlike how they did last year against the Bruins.

SAN JOSE SHARKS

I don’t care what they do in the regular season anymore. I don’t care if they win the Pacific division, if Joe Thornton scores 200 points and Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture score 90 goals. This team should’ve won a Cup by now and their time is running out. If they don’t get it done this year then they never will.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

Is Ilya Bryzgalov finally the answer in net for the Flyers? He better be. The Flyers let go of fan favorites and team leaders Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to clear space for Bryzgalov. Sure they acquired L.A. Kings power forward Wayne Simmonds (who Flyer fans will love) and Brandon Schenn  (who from preseason reports looks like a beast) but you don’t replace Richards toughness and Carter’s skill overnight. I’m still not a fan of either trade but if the Flyers get back to the finals then it proves that maybe I really don’t know anything about hockey.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

I probably jumped the gun last year in making them Stanley Cup favorites, but they are close. Acquiring Richards from the Flyers gives them a much needed veteran presence in the locker room and they have Doughty, Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar flying around and making things happen. The only question is will Jonathan Quick be their full time net minder or will it be Jonathan Bernier?

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Without Crosby the Pens had 98 points last year and took the 4th spot in the East (without Malkin also) so once Crosby comes back how do you think this team will fare?

(This Crosby injury by the way is really bad in both a game play and P.R. sense for the NHL. The league needs Crosby on the ice because he is the NHL. Crosby is the league’s most recognizable face and its best player. The league needs him on the ice as much as it needs Ovechkin. When Crosby is on the ice the game changes. He is the best passer and best scorer in the league and can change a game at the drop of a hat. If the Pens had him healthy in the playoffs they may have hoisted their second cup in three years. Once healthy the Pens once again become the league’s scariest team and might be the best team in the league… once he comes back.

His injury is the reason why Brendan Shanahan has been so harsh when it comes to physical play. This isn’t like the NFL where Roger Goodell is turning the game into flag

40 and still going strong.

football, the suspensions that “Shanaban” is handing out are necessary in order to change the culture of the game and protect the players. After the injuries to Crosby as well as Nathan Horton and Marc Savard it has become clear that the league needs to crack down on these types of hits. Hopefully it discourages this type of play and quick. Because if Steven Stamkos gets a Crosby type of injury then the game will really be in trouble.)

DETROIT RED WINGS

I mean when are they not a player for the Cup?

Also let’s pay homage to Nicklas Lidstrom. This is probably his last season in the league and it looks like he can play another five. At age 40 Lidstrom is still better than most of the defensemen in the league and is probably the front runner for his 8th Norris trophy. What he did in replacing the irreplaceable Steve Yzerman as captain in Detroit and leading them to another title in addition to all that he’s done in his career has to put him in the top 10 players all-time right?

NEW YORK RANGERS

I probably just jinxed my team putting them in the top 7 and I’m probably overvaluing the acquisition of Brad Richards (which will help immensely) but after watching this team play together for two years I think that they will contend for a title this year. The Rangers youth movement has been a huge success with Ryan Callahan, Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky leading the way. The Rangers are a tough team that is defense driven but can score goals when needed. They just needed more consistent scoring and a veteran to get them over the hump. Enter Richards. Richards was a member of John Tortorella’s 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning championship team and is one of the game’s best scorers. His presence will help Marian Gaborik get back to scoring a ton of goals, should push Cally and Dubz to the 30 goal mark and should keep the Rangers ship steady in those late months. I’m saying they’ll win it all, but they will be a serious contender.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

Hey Bruce Boudreau, you don’t get it done this year then you may want to update your resume.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

The thought of Daniel Sedin taking four shots to the face and Roberto Luongo falling flat on his face in key situations is still fresh. If they didn’t get tougher this offseason then they’ll be done in a hurry.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

The trades after the title killed their chemistry for the first half of last year. Once they got it going they looked like a machine. The key is Corey Crawford in net. We know Kane, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp will score, but the reason they were able to turn things around was because of Crawford’s play in net. He is primed for a breakout year and the Blackhawks are looking at a return to the Cup.

BOSTON BRUINS

With Richards the Rangers can contend.

 

Okay, your city won its 7th title in all four major sports in 10 years… now go away. That wasn’t really analysis more like I’m sick of Boston and its championship reign.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

No one, and I mean no one will stop them from scoring goals especially of Ryan Getzlaf stays healthy all season long. The Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan line is the scariest line that the NHL has seen in a while. They can all go for 50 goals and 100 points and they make it easy. It helps when your 40 year-old second line winger can still get you 30 goals and 80 points to help back you up. I don’t know what fountain of youth Teemu Selanne has been drinking from but he needs to share it with others. However it always comes back to goaltending and Jonas Hiller decides whether I’m right about this team making the Cup finals or not. With him in net last year they would’ve won the pacific division. In that period in between before Ray Emery almost saved them the Ducks could’ve scored 10 goals a game and it wouldn’t have mattered because they still would’ve lost. Hiller’s health means so much to this team because they have no real second option behind him. It also doesn’t help that he is one of the top 6 goalies in the league. This team’s title hopes hinge on him, if he’s healthy then put them down for a June reservation. If not, then it’s another first round exit.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

Yep, I just picked the Lightning to win the Stanley Cup. They have a 41 year-old goalie, I don’t know if their defense can stop the puck from going in the net and Vinny LeCavalier is still possible trade bait… and I don’t care. This team could’ve made the Stanley Cup Finals last year if not for a road game 7. This year I think Stamkos and company won’t fade late in the season like they did last year, which ultimately cost them home ice. They are settled in net and Roloson is a big game goalie who knows how to win also they can score with the best of them. Steve Yzerman put this team together in his image and if that’s the case then I have no doubts that they will be tough enough to get to and win the Stanley Cup.

The first puck is set to drop in a few hours and I’m more than excited. After a long offseason with so much tragedy and heartbreak it will be a welcome relief to see some of the best players in the world on the ice and making magic happen.

The league deserves some good news and good times after a few months of so many bad ones.

ATLANTIC- RANGERS

Stamkos is ready for a run at Lord Stanley.

NORTHEAST- BRUINS

SOUTHEAST- LIGHTNING

EC PLAYOFFS- CAPS, HABS, SABRES, FLYERS, PENS

ECF-  LIGHTNING- BRUINS

CENTRAL- BLACKHAWKS

NORTHWEST- CANUCKS

PACIFIC- DUCKS

WC PLAYOFFS- SHARKS, KINGS, PREDATORS, RED WINGS, BLUES

WCF- DUCKS- BLACKHAWKS

SCF- DUCKS- LIGHTNING

HART TROPHY- STEVEN STAMKOS

VEZINA- HENRIK LUNDQUIST

NORRIS- NICKLAS LIDSTROM

CALDER- RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS

SELKE- JONATHAN TOEWS

JACK ADAMS- JOHN TORTORELLA


Once Again Crosby Is King

Sid on his way to another big night.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if anyone in sports deserves the moniker of king it should be Sidney Crosby.

Crosby ever since he entered the league has stared greatness, high expectations and unreal challenges in the face and still has not flinched.

Rebuild a former champion into a perennial contender? Yep, done that. Return Canadian hockey to Olympic glory? Piece of cake. Contend for the scoring title each year while being one of the best leaders in hockey? I mean duh.

Sure we’ve had moments where it has been easy to point out Crosby’s shortcomings. He flops, complains a little to much to the referees, continuously takes cheap penalties, and there was that point during the Penguins firs Stanley Cup run where he missed significant time due to injury and the team didn’t miss a beat thanks to the play of Evgeni Malkin. However, all Crosby does is raise his game play to new heights when his team needs it no matter the situation.

Take a look at his recent stretch of play that has him at the top of the points standings, the head of the MVP race and the Penguins looking like the best team in the NHL.

17 games ago the Pittsburgh Penguins were a mess. They were fourth in the division after a mediocre start, Marc-Andre Fleury was terrible in net, the defensive lines were in disarray, Jordan Staal went down with a broken hand that is healing slower than molasses and Geno Malkin has been slowed by a bum knee which has knocked his production way down past what we expect from him.

Although he's outshining them, Crosby is creating more opportunities for his teammates to shine.

So what does Sid the Kid do? Oh you know, have a 17 game point streak with 35 total points (20 goals, 15 assists). Lead the team to a 14-2-1 record over that time where they sit atop not only the Eastern Conference but also the entire NHL with the 5th best offense and the 3rd best goals against average. Steven Stamkos lead the league in goals and points at that time, he’s now second in both categories (behind by 5 goals and 10 points), The L.A. Kings were the league’s best team they’re now 5th in their own conference staring tenth in the face. Yep, what a difference a month and a player can make.

Crosby is playing out of his mind right now. He’s the only player on his team with ten goals, he’s got 26. His play has helped bring out the best in his supporting cast that’s trying to weather life without Staal and an ineffective Malkin. Kris Letang has emerged as a legitimate Norris trophy contender, Chris Kunitz looks great playing next to Crosby on his line and is recapturing some of the pop he had when he was in Anaheim. Crosby’s leadership and play have helped to hide Pittsburgh’s thin bench and lack of talent on the wings and has them in a position to be the front-runner in the Eastern Conference.

Crosby and company have knocked off playoff contenders Vancouver, Tampa, Atlanta and the Rangers and have done so convincingly. He’s playing like the man that won the league MVP in only his second year in the league and has shed the image that he’s not a big goal scorer like Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin, Crosby is in another world right now. His vision, skill and predatory instincts are greater than anyone’s in the game and the Pens are reaping the benefits of it all and look like a cup contender.

Question is can it continue? The Pens stretch does get tougher with the Rangers, Flyers, Caps and Habs all calling in the next month including the nationally televised Winter Classic from Heinz Field against the Caps.

The road gets tougher, but with a guy like Sid the Kid on your side you cant worry too much. He’s the headman for the league’s MVP award with only Stamkos in any view of him and it aint even close. Crosby is taking a team that is ordinary at best and is making them extraordinary by lifting them onto his back and taking chare in leading them towards a playoff march and a possible Stanley Cup.

If Crosby continues on this pace and Malkin can somehow get healthy (and if they can keep Fluery’s head on straight) the Pens are going to be a huge problem whether they lose again or not.

We tend to throw monikers around like hotcakes, Prince this, King that, he’s great, blah blah blah… one thing is for sure one man that deserves to have a moniker thrown his way is Crosby. He has been a savior, become a king and is leading his soldiers into battle and is taking on the grunt of the load himself. The man can do it all, so once again repeat after me once again… his name is King Crosby. Get used to it, put it in your brain, make a t-shirt out of it because it should, and hopefully will, stick.


The Debate: Is Steven Stamkos The Best Player In The NHL?

The best in the game? Maybe.

So correct me if I’m wrong or a little misguided here… but at some point when we going to realize that Steven Stamkos might be better than Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin?

As crazy as that sounds, as much hype that has been placed around Sid the kid and Alex the great (and rightfully so) maybe we’re wrong about whom the best player in the game is.

It’s kind of hard to prove this point especially when Crosby and Ovechkin play in highly popular sports towns that obsess over their stars and teams while Stamkos plays in the strip club capital of the world. However, if you’ve ever gotten the chance to watch Stamkos play then you understand possibly where I’m coming from.

He is the league’s leading scorer in goals and points while leading the Lightning to a surprising start at the top of the Southeast division ahead of everyone’s Stanley Cup favorite Washington Capitals who are led by Ovechkin. Stamkos’s offensive output is overshadowing one of the league’s most dismal goaltending situations as the Bolts are 20th in the NHL in goals allowed at 3 per game. He’s also carrying a team that is getting little to no production from Ryan Malone, Simon Gagne and high priced center Vinnie Lecavalier.

Stamkos’s production is similar to LeBron James with the Cavaliers, one supremely talented player who is carrying a bunch of scrubs (except Martin St. Louis who is quietly putting together another solid season) and making the entire team look better.

Conversely look at Pittsburgh and Washington.

Coincidence that Stevie Y's hiring has lead to the Lightning's first place start?

In Pittsburgh, Crosby leads his team in scoring but is getting lots of help from Evgeni Malkin and defensemen Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski. Also Goaltender Brent Johnson is saving their goaltending situation with his 5-1 start and a 1.70 GAA while Marc-Andre Fleury is floundering (which reminds me, is it time for the Pens to give up on Fleury? He was terrible against the Habs last playoffs and has never truly been a consistent goalie. Sure he was great in their Cup run in 2009 but that was after a rocky regular season. I wonder if Mario Lemieux might be doing some shopping for a backstop before the trade deadline). Crosby has a great supporting cast around him which has helped the Pens to a second place standing in the Atlantic.

Let’s not even start with Ovechkin’s help. Alex Semin is getting better yearly (tied with Ovie in goals with 7) they’ve got one of the best passing centers in the game in Nicklas Backstrom and Brooks Laich is having a breakout season with a +8. As great as Ovechkin is, and as exciting I’m starting to get the feeling that his teammates are catching up to him the production department (which actually may speak volumes about Ovie’s affect on the team. Before it was the Ovechkin show with Mike Green riding shotgun and Backstrom right behind. Now I think everyone’s following balls to the wall way of playing. There’s nothing finesse about these guys anymore, Semin goes hard, so do Laich, Tomas Fleischman and others. Maybe after last season’s playoff disappointment the entire team got the message of maybe it’s time to play hard all the time instead of in spots. Hmmmm, Ovechkin becoming a great leader, who’d a thunk it?).

Crosby and Ovechkin are at a greater advantage than Stamkos. Stamkos is on a young team that really has no great defenseman, underachieving forwards and questions in goal. Yet Steve is coming out every night and controlling the action on the ice and leading the charge as if he doesn’t care. Maybe he’s under the influence of new Lightning VP and one of the game’s great captain’s Steve Yzerman. Yzerman’s hard work ethic and leadership was the sole reason that the Red Wings became the league’s flagship team in the last 20 years and its continued even in his absence with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and others in Detroit.

Stamkos, though he wears no C or A might also be following Yzerman’s way of game play. He’s scoring goals at the same clip but now his passing his better and his defense is improving with a +9 rating which is a vast improvement over his combined -15 from his first two years in the league. He’s getting faster, stronger and just plain better with each game. I know the Lightning have been cooling on the idea of trading Lecavalier but why not? Getting Stamkos a center or wing that can get a few goals to help out would be huge for him and the Bolts. Stamkos is light years beyond Vinnie already and the Bolts don’t need a lame duck center as the team’s captain. You gotta wonder if a few years ago the Lightning wish that they would’ve traded him instead of Brad Richards who is also an early MVP candidate for the Dallas Stars.

Just take the time out this year to watch Steven Stamkos and you’ll understand what all of the fuss is about. I picked him to win MVP this year and he’s not disappointing early on. He’s got the Lightning playing with great confidence and at a high level while leading by example. He also has them ahead of Crosby and Ovechkin’s teams respectively while beating the both of them in the scoring race. I might be wrong in thinking he’s better than those two, the numbers ain’t lying. 91 is greater than 87 or 8.

 


A Letter To Marc-Andre Fluery

Marc-Andre Fluery needs to strp it up tonight.

Dear Marc-Andre Fleury,

Hi Marc, I’m Kevin Anthony Howard. I’m pretty sure you remember my letters to C.C. Sabathia and Lane Kiffin last year when they we’re facing tough situations and they did pretty well after we talked. So I figured after watching you get demolished by a weak scoring Canadians team last night, again, I figured you could use a little talk.

First off just to let you know I hate the Penguins, I’m a Rangers fan, it’s a rivalry you know? So I kind of actually want the Canadians to win tomorrow night at the igloo and send that place to ground in defeat and the fans home teary eyed. Yet not in the fashion that it seems like it’s going to happen in. that being with you being the goat for the eventual loss.

Yeah I know King Crosby just scored his first goal of the series last night, and I know Kris Letang sort of burned you the other night in Montreal and his mistake led to the Canadians knotting up the series, but last night was on you dude. You allowed some soft goals like the Mike Cammalleri back hander, ugly, and that Maxim Lapierre goal where he shook you out of your shoes, uglier.

This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this in you Marc. No one really paid attention in the Ottawa series, but on the low, you we’re terrible. Games 1 and 3 for you we’re rough to watch especially. I mean you got bailed out by Crosby and Malkin but dude, even you know that that’s not going to cut it especially this year with you all as defending champions and all.

Let’s be real for a minute. Crosby, Malkin and Staal aren’t the only top draft picks on this team. You were the number one pick in the draft in 2003 and the Pens envisioned you as being the best goalie that they had had since Tom Barasso. It was a rough transition to the league but you’ve done a decent job, you made the Canadian gold medal winning team this year, you’ve got a ring from last year and made the finals the year before. Yet Marc, you know as well as I do that you tend to disappoint more than amaze.

Your stats are average, the team actually played better with Ty Conklin in net in 2008 when you we’re injured, and you don’t exactly raise your game with stakes high late in the season or in the playoffs. In the six games you lost to the devils this year you allowed 3 or more goals in every game, against the Caps, 4 or more. That was the reason the pens weren’t a top 3 seed in the first place because of your poor play (which in hindsight doesn’t matter right now because look at where they all are).

With all of that said Marc tomorrow night is your shot. Possible last game in the Igloo, where Barasso won two cups and 300 games, where the Pens turned Pittsburgh into a raging hockey town once the Steelers closed up shop for the season, where Lemieux and Jagr were as synonymous as Jordan and Pippen, where the Pens face elimination and the possibility of being dethroned. This is your shot to come through and prove that that number one pick on you was a worthy one. You can be the best goalie on the ice and carry your team to victory much like your French-Canadian idols Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur.

The season is on your shoulders. You have to stop Cammalleri from continuing his amazing playoff run; you have to be better than Jaroslav Halak who has been putting on his best Mikka Kirprusoff in 2004 or J.S. Giguere from 2003 impression. The pressure is on you more than any other Penguin tomorrow night, much like an ace pitcher in a game 7 in baseball, you have to bring your best stuff in a do or die scenario tomorrow because your team needs you more than ever.

So remember that when the clock strikes seven and the puck is in your corner. You are the number one guy tomorrow night. The pressure is on you to get it done and you better live up to it, or else there are going to be some sour Pens fans come Thursday morning.

Good luck Marc, and remember the reason why you we’re picked number one in 03. Bring that game with you or the Pens are done

Sincerely,

Kevin Anthony Howard