This is article 2 of 7 leading up to the Penguins first regular season game, which is only 6 days away. In other words, we are only “the number of points Josh Scobee could have had if he made all of his field goals last night” days away from hockey season.
This is why I have a Penguins blog, and not a Steelers blog.
Anyways, let’s cut to the chase: let’s talk bold predictions.
In previous years, since their 2009 Stanley Cup victory, the Penguins have always been fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. They have always been considered a playoff team and even a possible Stanley Cup favorite over this span, because with a team that has Crosby and Malkin, it’s hard to not at least give the Penguins half-decent odds to win the whole thing. Although last year was not the case, I believe they are poised to fight for the top spot in the Eastern Conference this year.
That was a bold prediction…literally.
I’m sorry, I had to make that joke. I get it from my dad…but if you got a laugh out of it, I feel pretty successful.
Anyways, now let’s forget my awful sense of humor, and let’s talk about my 5 bold predictions for the Penguins this year:
- Kris Letang wins the Norris Trophy – Kris Letang played incredible for the Penguins last season while he was healthy. He tied his career high in goals (11) and established a new career high in points (54) in only 69 games. More impressively, Letang has dramatically improved the defensive aspects of his game over the years, opposed to when he came into the NHL, he was known as a very offensive-minded guy. Don’t get me wrong, Letang can play offense, but he has shown that he can be a shutdown defenseman as well, and he will be put in that role this year with Olli Maatta. Letang missed some time at the end of the season due to a concussion he suffered when he got hit hard into the boards by Coyotes’ foward Shane Doan, but he is ready to rebound. Letang works hard. He is always one of the first guys on the ice for practice and one of the last guys off. He is motivated. He is ready. Look out Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Erik Karlsson, and others. Letang could win the Norris Trophy this year (NHL’s most valuable defenseman).
- Phil Kessel scores 45 goals – Everybody knows Phil Kessel is going to score goals this year for the Penguins. As I mentioned in my “Meet the New Guys” article, Kessel is a 5-time 30+ goal scorer. His highest goal total in a season is 37, which he had in 2011-12 and 2013-14. If Kessel can stay healthy, I believe that he can establish a career high in goals, especially when playing with Sidney Crosby, who knows a thing or 2 about passing a puck. If the Kunitz-Crosby-Kessel line stays healthy and performs like it has in the 2 games we have seen them in preseason action, I believe Kessel scores 45 goals this year.
- Sergei Plotnikov scores 25 goals – In his previous 3 seasons in the KHL, Plotnikov has scored 14 goals in 50 games, 15 goals in 53 games, and 15 goals in 56 games respectively. This may not seem too impressive, but an NHL season is 82 games. This means that had Plotnikov played 82 games in each of his last 3 seasons, we would have scored approximately 22 goals, 23 goals, and 21 goals respectively. As of right now, Plotnikov will likely start the season with one of the best players in the NHL, Evgeni Malkin, as well as a terrific right winger in Patric Hornqvist. This line has looked great in preseason play, and I believe Plotnikov can benefit from these 2 players, especially fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin, and put up 25 goals for the Penguins this season.
- Daniel Sprong starts the season in the NHL – Daniel Sprong is likely the best-performing forward so far in the preseason. The coaches knew he was good, but he has by far exceeded expectations. The Penguins currently have 31 men on their roster, but they will need to reduce that to 23 very soon. Sprong will get his chance tonight, likely playing on the 3rd line with Nick Bonino and Pascal Dupuis. If Sprong performs well, the Penguins can give him that highly-coveted 9 game tryout in the NHL. If Sprong is given the 9 game tryout, he will be eligible to return to juniors on October 29th, which is right around when Eric Fehr would be returning from his wrist injury. Keeping all of this in mind, there is a strong chance that Sprong will begin the season with the Penguins. Who knows what will happen if he performs extremely well during that 9 game tryout.
- The Penguins win 55+ – With the exception of last year (and technically the lockout year), the Penguins have been sitting right around the 50 win mark every season. During the lockout season, the Penguins had 36 wins in 48 games. In an 82 game season, if the Penguins would have continued to produce wins at that rate, the Penguins were on pace for 61 wins! However, in an 82 game season, there are more games, and therefore more chance for injury, and more chance for hitting those “fluky strides” where your team just can’t win a hockey game. That being said, this team is built to score goals. Get ready to hear that goal horn a lot this year, because the Penguins shouldn’t be losing many 2-1 contests. Tack up 55 wins for the good guys.
Once again, as always, thank you to those who keep up with my blog. I really do appreciate it!
Tomorrow I will be talking about my projected lineups for the first Penguins game of the 2015-2016 NHL season. I will continue to post a link on Twitter and Facebook after I publish an article, so if you want to continue keeping up with me, follow me!