Few teams, if any, can compare to the depth the Penguins have on all four lines, starting of course with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby posted 15 goals and 56 points in 36 games last season and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy for League MVP. Though he missed 12 games due to a broken jaw, it appears Crosby’s concussion issues are finally behind him. Malkin, meanwhile, battled injuries of his own last year that limited him to just 31 games, but still managed to post nine goals and 33 points.
While the two superstars are the headline-grabbers in Pittsburgh, it’s the Penguins’ depth that makes them so dangerous. Winger Chris Kunitz had a career-year with 22 goals and 52 points in 48 games, while Pascal Dupuis exploded for 38 points in 48 games. James Neal, who has turned into a budding superstar of his own during his time in Pennsylvania, notched 21 goals and 36 points in 40 games.
The mix of stars and quality depth led to Pittsburgh finishing No. 1 in the NHL 162 goals last season, 13 more than second place Chicago.
The blueline and crease are major question marks for Pittsburgh, especially come playoff time. While the team boasts one of the best offensive-defenseman in the NHL in Kris Letang, they have trouble keeping pucks out of their own net, ranking 12th in the NHL last season with 2.48 goals against, which was seventh-worst among playoff teams. The Penguins must rely heavily on Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik to play large shutdown roles to take pressure off the offense, which bailed out the backend on a number of occasions a season ago.
Pittsburgh’s goaltending situation is one of the biggest storylines heading into the 2013-14 season. Marc-Andre Fleury showed last spring that despite having world-class skill and a Stanley Cup on his resume, he could be rattled. He was scratched in the team’s first round playoff series against the New York Islanders for Tomas Vokoun. While Vokoun faired well in both the regular season and playoffs, his time as a No. 1 netminder could be behind him, which could create issues for Pittsburgh in net if Fleury cannot return to his former self.