Sunday, January 06, 2008

07-08 Midseason Review

The Pens have reached the midpoint of the season. Things weren't looking good early on, but the Pens have turned it around lately. I think they'll keep it going through the second half and right on into the playoffs.

I'm providing some basic numbers, followed by my MVP, biggest surprise and biggest disappointment.

Facts about the halfway point:
Record - 23-16-2
Points - 48
OT Wins - 6 (5 in the shoot out)

In 2006-07, the same data:
Record - 18-16-7
Points - 43
OT Wins - 4

The team has managed far better in OT, and with fewer appearances. They were 4-7 in OT last year at the midpoint, whereas this year they are 6-2. Getting the two points in regulation, along with having some finishers to take care of business in the shootout is one of the biggest changes.

Team MVP - Sidney Crosby
This one is so obvious it's almost not worth writing about. Ty Conklin has played like Patrick Roy of late, but Sid is the heart and soul, hands down.

Biggest Surprise - Ty Conklin, Kris Letang and Tyler Kennedy

Conklin - Ty was signed to provide depth in the system, which became needed when Fleury went down and Sabourin struggled. He's riding a great hot streak right now. He'll probably come down to earth, but it's great while it lasts.

Letang - Getting the call up during his first professional season after not making the team out of camp, Kris has been everything the Pens could hope for from a rookie defenseman. He's absolutely lights out on the shoot out (4-4), and maybe bigger yet, he's even (in +/-) through 23 games while playing 18 minutes per night.

Kennedy - Aside from the fact that Steigerwald keeps referring to him as the "Little Tiger" or any other term that makes him sound like he's 12, Tyler has made most people forget about Mark Recchi. He's earned some time on the power play and a regular spot on the second or third line. He's chipped in with 8 goals so far, and provides a much-needed right handed shot.

Honorable Mention - Colby Armstrong
Army has re-established himself on the top line and managed to stay there for an extended stretch. Not sure if that's where he'll remain for the rest of the year (especially with the way Therrien likes to flip lines), but he's doing the job right now. Good with puck-possession and has good instincts with Sid.

Biggest Disappointment - Jordan Staal
I know this choice won't be popular, but the numbers don't lie. Jordan is a -11 on the year. That's the worst on the team. He has only 10 points so far. I'm not surprised the goal scoring dropped off, but the -11 is the really troubling number. He needs to turn it around, at least with the defensive responsibility. He's also a key part of the PK unit that has struggled to be consistent.

Honorable Mention - Top Heavy Scoring
The team as a whole has only three players with more than 10 goals (Crosby, Malkin and Sykora). They've been getting some better balance lately, and that needs to continue. The top line can't carry them forever, especially against the other top competition in the East when the playoffs get here. Fortunately, Kennedy, Malone and Armstrong all show signs of chipping in every now and then. If they can ever get Sykora going, things could get interesting.

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