Article 3 of 7, here we go!
The Penguins made their final roster moves today. Technically, they reduced their roster to 25 players, but forwards Eric Fehr and Tom Kuhnhackl are currently injured, which puts them at the NHL limit of a 23.
Let’s talk about who went where after the final roster cut.
- No shock here, Derrick Pouliot was sent to the AHL along with forwards John-Sebastian Dea and Bryan Rust. Dea and Rust were destined to stay in the minors starting from the beginning of training camp. Both of these players could be NHL ready in a few years, but the Penguins lineup right now has no space for these guys. On the other hand, many predicted Pouliot to be a top 4 defenseman this year going into camp. I am a huge Pouliot fan myself, but he did not show any promise in preseason action. This could have been the result of having a mindset of having a spot locked up, or it could be simply that Pouliot isn’t ready. He has great talent, and he’ll see NHL action this year for sure, but he will start the season with Wilkes-Barre to help his development.
- Although this was not a huge shock, it was the most shocking move the Penguins made today: they released Sergei Gonchar from his professional tryout contract. Because of this, defenseman Tim Erixon will make the roster, since Pouliot also did not make the roster. Although Gonchar did not play great during preseason action, not many of the Penguins defensmen played well overall. Many thought Gonchar would stick around to be able to mentor the young defensemen such as Clendening and Pouliot, and also because he is one of Evgeni Malkin’s best buddies. Malkin attributes a lot of his success to Sergei Gonchar, but he will not be with the team this year. Either way, Gonchar will always be remembered by Penguins fans everywhere. I would love to see Gonchar stay with the Penguins in some type of managerial role, but who knows what he wants to do. Thanks Sarge.
- This may be shocking to some, but if you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’re not shocked at all: Daniel Sprong made the Penguins roster, as did the wrecking ball himself Bobby Farnham. I’ve talked enough about Sprong, but I am very excited to see him in NHL action. He has at most 9 games to make a good impression, and if he does, he could be with the Penguins all year. If not, we get a glimpse of what is to come. On the other hand, there is Bobby Farnham. He may not be skilled, but he plays with some crazy passion. He is 5′ 10″, but he doesn’t care. He would engage in a fight against a 6′ 6″ monster if he had to. He is a guy the Penguins are going to need, and he is so good at getting under opponents’ skin. Finally, it is time to Free Farnham.
After the final roster cuts, here are the players that remain on the Penguins roster:
Centers: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen
Left Wings: Chris Kunitz, David Perron, Sergei Plotnikov
Right Wings: Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Beau Bennett, Daniel Sprong, Pascal Dupuis, Bobby Farnham
Defensemen: Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Ian Cole, Brian Dumoulin, Ben Lovejoy, Adam Clendening, Rob Scuderi, Tim Erixon
Injured: Eric Fehr, Tom Kuhnhackl
The Penguins had some very interesting line combinations in yesterday’s game. They split Crosby and Malkin on the power play, they played David Perron on the 4th line, and they split Letang and Maatta. I believe most of this was just a result in trying to find chemistry, but who knows. Anyways, here are my predictions as to what the opening night roster is going to look like:
Kunitz – Crosby – Kessel
Plotnikov – Malkin – Hornqvist
Perron – Bonino – Dupuis
Bennett – Cullen – Sprong
In regards to the forwards, the first 2 lines seem pretty obvious to me. I don’t think those lines change, and Mike Johnston used these 2 lines in the final preseason game. I believe Perron moves up to the third line to play with Bonino and Dupuis, since Perron is just too skilled to be considered a fourth line guy, even though he hasn’t looked great in the preseason. This leaves Bennett and Sprong to play with Matt Cullen, which is almost unfair to these guys. Both Bennett and Sprong had terrific camps and preseasons, but there is just no other place for these guys to play. But hey, a fourth line of Bennett, Cullen, and Sprong is impressive. I think Farnham is scratched for opening night, but don’t be surprised if we see him in game action soon.
Letang – Scuderi
Maatta – Cole
Dumoulin – Lovejoy
(Clendening – Erixon)
In regards to the defense, I actually think the Penguins will keep Letang and Maatta split. Why? Because you don’t put Crosby and Malkin on the same line. The Penguins have 2 terrific defensemen in Letang and Maatta, but everyone else is pretty much considered a 5th or 6th defensemen (besides maybe Ian Cole, who could be considered a 4th defenseman). That being said, why stack one line, and leave the other 2 D pairs hung out to dry? I put Scuderi with Letang only because I think this would allow for Letang to hop up into the play more, being that Scuderi is a stay-at-home defenseman. Olli Maatta will likely play with Ian Cole, that is if Scuds plays with Letang. The 3rd D pair was very hard to determine, because Clendening has had such a great camp, but I would be shocked if they hold Lovejoy out of the roster. However, Clendening will get his chances even if he doesn’t play.
In regards to goalies, well, that one was easy.
Keep in mind these are my personal predictions. This does not mean these will be the lines on opening night, this is just my hunch. We should find out more and more as the week progresses, because the Penguins will have a few practices, and likely practice line combinations that they want to see on opening night. They want to, and NEED to, develop some chemistry, but that just comes with reps and reps and more reps.
Also, don’t be surprised if they put Crosby and Malkin back on the same power play unit, but I guess we will have to see.
As always, thanks for keeping up with me! Tomorrow I’ll be writing an article about this year’s team vs. last years team. You won’t want to miss this one.