We're down to fewer than ten games remaining this season, and the new-look Pittsburgh Penguins begin the home stretch tonight with their second and final visit to PNC Arena to face the Hurricanes. What can we expect from the Penguins and all their shiny new acquisitions? We get answers from Pensburgh's Hooks Orpik, who kindly joins us in the hot seat for Three Questions.
Of the Pens' acquisitions over the past couple of weeks, who has been the most seamless fit into the lineup so far? In a couple of words, what's been your impression of Jussi Jokinen since he joined the team?
It's very early, but I would have to say Jokinen has been the easiest fit in the lineup. He looked really comfortable and played great in his only game as a Penguin so far, scoring the game's only goal and then adding the team's only shootout goal to single-handedly provide all the offense needed to earn 2 points in his only game. Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow have had their moments, but it's easy to tell they are brand new and haven't been out of a system in a long time- since Jokinen has played for a couple different teams and in several different positions and roles on those teams, he definitely seems like the most versatile of Pittsburgh's recent acquisitions.
Now that the Pens have punched their ticket to the playoffs, which team poses the most potential problems of any of the matchups they could face, and why? (And, given the roll the Pens have been on over the last month, is "problems" a relative term?)
Just speaking for round one, there's a chance the Pens could see the Rangers in a 1/8 or 2/7 matchup and that I would say is my biggest concern. New York has a great goalie, and hot goalies eliminated the Pens in 2010 (Jaroslav Halak) and 2011 (Dwayne Roloson) when the Pens overall played better than their opponents. And we all know that Henrik Lundqvist is a lot better overall than those two guys, too. Plus I think the Rangers collapsing, shot-blocking defensive mentality can be scary in a seven game series and they have just enough offensive pop to win 2-1 or 3-2 games.
All things considered, the Penguins matchup pretty well against any team in the East (assuming full strength from injuries), but a first round meeting against the Rangers is probably the toughest draw they could have right out of the gate.
On a scale of 1-10 (1 being totally unconcerned), how much concern is there surrounding Sidney Crosby's injury and the Pens' ability to compensate without him in the lineup? When he comes back, will it be an instance of the team being glad to get back to full power, or a nice bonus to a team that was rolling with or without him in the lineup?
There's about a 2 concern on the injury itself. There's no concussion symptoms for Crosby but the bigger worry was risk of a post-operation infection (which he also avoided). So it's going to heal and he's going to be back, there's a sense maybe for the last week of the regular season to gear up and get as much timing and into game-shape as possible. Everyone from the team to the player himself are in pretty good spirits and there's not too much concern about the actual broken jaw.
As far as concern for the Penguins to win without Sidney Crosby, I'd put that at a 8 or 9 out of ten. Evgeni Malkin has had two injuries recently (concussion, shoulder) and hasn't looked like himself lately. James Neal is on the shelf with a concussion now too, with an unknown return date. Kris Letang has been in and out of the lineup. Iginla and Morrow haven't meshed yet with the new systems, teammates. Pittsburgh has a ton of talent, but it's not really cohesive right now - Crosby and the stellar goaltending of Fleury and Vokoun were the driving engines in the 15 game winning streak, and it's no coincidence that the team lost the first 2 games that Sid was out for.
I don't see the Penguins going anywhere without Crosby. He turned Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis into veritable all-stars, which allows the sick, sick "second" line of Neal-Malkin-Iginla and a monstrous checking line of Morrow, Brandon Sutter and Matt Cooke. Without Crosby, the Pens are pretty much a non-threat, they'd have to shuffle a lot of what they want to do around and really rely on depth, defense and goaltending too much, in my opinion.