Sunday, September 27, 2009

The pre-season is over!

Do you know what the best sporting event on TV was today?

If you said the replay of Game 7 of the Cup Finals, you'd be right! I don't know about you, but it still gives me chills watching it. The game is about midway through the second as I type this blog entry and Talbot just gave the Pens a 2-0 lead. I almost started yelling again.

Last year, the Pens lost Sergei Gonchar during the pre-season. This year, they got through (mostly) unscathed. Talbot is hurt, but he wasn't injured during camp. Crosby's injury obviously could change this if it proves to be more serious than we think.

The team seemed a bit indifferent to the results during the pre-season games, but I think that's okay. They really just needed to get the guys back on the ice and used to working together. They also needed some time to see how the new guys would fit in, and fill the last few roster spots.

Which of the new guys are you most excited about? I'm most anxious to see how Mike Rupp fits in. I think we're going to be really pleased with his size, toughness and work effort.

The season opens on Friday against the Rangers. Are you starting to feel it yet?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Another cutdown day

We're down to 29 players in camp. The maximum is 23, and the Pens have to be there by September 30th.

There are 17 forwards, 9 defensemen and 3 goalies.

So who is left?

First off, two of the forwards are injured - Talbot and Lestestsu.

You have to think the Pens will keep 13 (maybe 14) forwards. This is how I see them breaking down:

Kunitz - Crosby - Guerin
Fedotenko - Malkin - Kennedy
Cooke - Staal - Dupuis
Rupp - Adams - Godard
Bayda - Bissonnette - Conner

I think two of those guys in the 5th group will stay. If I had to guess, I'll say Bayda stays for sure and Conner probably stays.

Your top 6 are (pairing not exact, to be sure):

Gonchar - Orpik
Eaton - Letang
McKee - Goligoski

Competing for the 7th defense spot are Engelland, Lovejoy and Guenin. I think Guenin stays.

Curry is only here until they see if Johnson is hurt seriously.

Here's the other consideration - the Pens only have a little over $1.6 million left under the cap, and only the top 12 forwards plus the top 6 defense are in that number. Anyone they sign needs to be willing to play for the league minimum. Having said that, the only guy that might want more than that would be Bayda, given that he played over 70 games last year with Carolina.

The roster is finally shaping up. It's pretty much what we thought, and as cool as it would be to see Caputi or Tangradi here, I think it's a good thing to let those guys learn and play regularly in Wilkes-Barre. We'll need them in Pittsburgh soon enough.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Roster Games - Forwards

So the Pens cut down their roster to 43. They sent a bunch of guys to Wilkes-Barre, returned Nathan Moon to juniors and cut Jamie Hunt.

That's not what inspired this post.

The release said they still had 26 forwards, 13 defense and 4 goalies in camp. I started wondering who was left, and what chance they had to make the team. The NHL roster size for the regular season is 23, and that usually breaks down to 13-14 forwards, 7-8 defense and 2 goalies.

Here's my round-up for the forwards:



Probably locks

That makes 12... and Talbot will fill a spot when he returns.

So who's left among the forwards that might have a shot at spot #13 (and 14, if they carry two extras)?
  • Ryan Bayda - The former Hurricane played 70 games last year for Carolina. He's a grinder.
  • Paul Bissonnette - Played 15 games for the Pens last year. Plays with an edge.
  • Wade Brookbank - Another former Hurricane on the roster. You'd think his chances are less than Bayda, but Brookbank does have size (he's 6'4"), which GMRS loves.
  • Luca Caputi - You want him to play regularly, so if he stays, it can't be to play 5:00 per night on the fourth line.
  • Chris Connor - Played in the Dallas system last year. I'm going to say he'll be in Wilkes-Barre.
  • Dustin Jeffrey - Dustin has turned himself into a decent NHL prospect. He played 14 games with the Pens last year.
  • Nick Johnson - Split last year between Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre. He'll play in Wilkes-Barre and continue to develop.
  • Konstantin Puskarev - Has an NHL tryout with the Pens. His fate may be determined by the preseason game tonight.
  • Wyatt Smith - Wyatt spent last year in the AHL. He's 32 and provides good depth in the organization, but he'll likely spend the year in Wilkes-Barre.
  • Eric Tangradi - Intriguing prospect that projects as a top 6 forward. He may not be ready for the NHL. See Luca Caputi.
  • Joe Vitale - Joe came out of Northeastern and played a few games for Wilkes-Barre last year. He'll be headed back there, I think.
  • Tim Wallace - Good NHL experience last year. Tim is a tenacious player and could be a good fit on the 3rd or 4th line if he has enough speed.
My money is on either Caputi or Tangradi until Talbot returns, plus either Bayda or Wallace.