The trade deadline passed at 3 pm without the slightest whisper of the Penguins being involved. For the first time in 23 years, Pittsburgh was neither buyers nor sellers, they simply chose to pass.
But that is OK. At least, according to Pens' GM Ray Shero who announced shortly after the trade deadline that the team did not make any moves. Why? Confidence and a lack of viable options in a slow trade market.
"This is the first time we have not done anything. It just really wasn’t there for us in terms of the players that were available. I like our team and I believed in our hockey team. I still do and I’m comfortable with this team moving forward," Shero said. (source: WTAE)
And why shouldn't he be confident? When breaking down the components of a Stanley Cup contending team, the Penguins seem to have a fighting chance, with or without Sidney Crosby.
Assuming Evgeni Malkin doesn't slow down -and judging by his play as of late that seems extremely doubtful- the Penguins look to have the MVP of the league. If they get Sidney Crosby back, the rest of the league could be in double trouble as Dan Bylsma can roll out three lines as tough as any team in the NHL. The Penguins also have a pure goal scorer in James Neal who is on pace to score 40+ goals, a component that was missing in their 2009 Stanley Cup run. And don't forget about Jordan Staal who has 21 goals in 42 games, this season. Staal has always had the size and strength and this season, he seems to have learned how to use it.
Pascal Dupuis, along with being an excellent penalty killer, is having one of his best seasons and is only two points away from tying his season record with the Penguins. Craig Adams is one of the leaders on the penalty kill, arguably sacrificing his body more than anyone on the team to block shots. Joe Vitale leads the team in face-off percentage and is ranked 15th in the league. Chris Kunitz has complimented the Malkin-Neal pairing as a physical presence on the line. Kunitz is a heavy hitter despite being the smallest on the line, while also closing in on 20 goals this season.
While the performance of a goaltender in the playoffs is always unpredictable, Marc-Andre Fleury has shown that he possesses the ability to win big games. Although, if he does not get more time off in the regular season, the chance of breaking down in the spring could become a reality.
Lock down defense
This is probably the only quality lacking on the Penguins. While the defense is not necessarily a weakness, the Penguins have not been as stingy as they were last season. Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik have had a rough season while the defense, as a whole, has had trouble limiting their turnovers. At the same time, the Penguins have played well against some of the best teams in the league. They limited Boston to one goal on the road and shutout the New York Rangers at home. Kris Letang is an excellent two-way defenseman who often is mistaken as a pure offensive-defenseman. Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland are very physical while Zbynek Michalek has a knack for always having his stick in the right spot. The talent on the defensive side of the ice is there, it is a matter of consistency.
Every player on the current roster has playoff experience and ten of those players hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2009. While the team draws leadership from its young core, those players have more Stanley Cup experience than some ten-year vets. The Penguins also have a coaching staff that has experience on the biggest stage and can make the adjustments to turn a series.
Ray Shero knows the makeup of his team heading into the postseason. He chose not to make a move on the grounds that the team is already a contender in the Eastern Conference. This is in direct contrast to last year when he made moves to improve the roster because he wanted to give the team a fighting chance despite season ending injuries to his two top players. Shero believes that this team can not only compete in the playoffs, but continue playing through the month of May.