You Vote: Are The Penguins The Best Team in the Metro? by @ChicksDigHockey - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

You Vote: Are The Penguins The Best Team in the Metro? by @ChicksDigHockey

The trade deadline has come and gone. I say, "Don't let the door hit ya in the butt". This was hard to watch at times.

Depending on who you follow/read you may have thought the Pens were dealing for Mark Letestu, Jeff Petry or Patrick Sharp…….. and then there was #JagrWatch2015 (stay tuned for the 2016 version). On Sunday, Twitter was almost unbearable with speculation. When Erhoff was scratched on Sunday, I swear people were calling airlines to see if he was booked anywhere.  

But that's over.

Winnik was the sole February trade, while Ian Cole was a late pickup that sent Robert Bortuzzo to St. Louis. Cole actually has a Penguins connection. He played for assistant coach Gary Agnew for 2 yrs in St Louis. He doesn't have high-end ability but can play a quality shutdown role.  He's had some shoulder issues and hasn't really lived up to his potential but a fresh start could be what his game needs.  
Then, as the clock struck 3 o'clock on Monday, word came that the Pens had a trade on the table. In a surprising move, the team sent Simon Despres to Anaheim in exchange for a Ben Lovejoy redux. If you listened closely, you could hear twitter gasp. Many didn't see the upside of Lovejoy over Despres viewing them as roughly two sides of the same coin.

Lovejoy, a right handed shot, has been a solid performer when healthy. He has 11 points in 40 games this year and averages 18:33 of ice time. He brings a bit more experience going into the playoffs. Despres, a left-handed shot, was the Penguins’ first-round draft choice in 2009, and had two goals and 15 assists in 59 games this season. He averaged 16:23 per game.
According to Rutherford, after losing Orpik and Niskanen last summer, it came down to experience. He wanted and now has a more experienced blue line.
If you look at the changes made over the season, it's easy to see the Pens mean to leave their playoff problems behind. I think the Pens have improved greatly but is it enough? Do the Pens have what it takes to lift the cup this year?
When the dust settled on Monday, The Metro division emerged tougher.
The Capitals added Curtis Glencross, who will provide size and a physical presence for the team as well as a body in front of the net. He's capable of playing in Washington's top six but really anywhere up and down the lineup. Then, they did no more. The Caps have a good team... but are they "Cup" good?
The Rangers are all in. They dealt some future stock for “right now” skilled puck-moving defenseman Keith Yandle. They hope he will be what Dan Boyle has not been for them. The Rangers now have solid blue-line depth in place with Yandle, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi and Marc Staal . It’s clear they’re looking to raise the cup after coming so close last season and were willing to mortgage their future for the chance.

Philadelphia entered the trade deadline with an ugly cap situation thanks to the team’s willingness to hand out rich, long-term contracts to mediocre players. They sent the recently reactivated Kimmo Timonen to Chicago because at 39, he wants to contend for the Cup before he retires. Doesn’t that scream “We can’t do this” from the Flyers?

The Flyers acquired Czech defenseman Radko Gudas from the Lightning.  With his 150 plus penalty minutes, he seems well-suited to the Broad Street Bullies. They lost Braydon Coburn in the Gudas trade and that hurts the team a lot, even as his departure eases the salary-cap situation considerably. Hextall’s choice here must have been making the decision that Philadelphia needed to go through some short-term pain to realize long-term potential. They picked up a few draft picks so there’s always tomorrow.
The big news out of Columbus seemed to be the trade made with Toronto. They sent injured forward Nathan Horton to the Maple Leafs in exchange for forward David Clarkson.  Clarkson was a 30-goal scorer in his best year in New Jersey. He competes hard and has been to a cup final before. His true impact remains to be seen. Many feel CBJ traded one corpse for another. There’s always a chance Clarkson will revitalize his career with the Jackets but they aren’t likely to jump to the top of the Metro because of him.

It appeared the Isles were happy with the team they had in place until they realized Tyler Kennedy was available. Their 4th line’s shooting percentage will surely soar. Just when you thought the Isles' day couldn’t be more mediocre, they acquired Dustin Jeffery. They also took Michal Neuvirth off the Sabers' hands as his net-front skills were in danger of thwarting Buffalo's efforts to tank for McDavid.

Otherwise, they had already done their due diligence. They sit at the top of the Metro with sturdy pieces in place and high hopes that Casey Cizikas, Kyle Okposo and Mikhail Grabovski return from injured reserve before the playoffs arrive.

I think the top three teams will remain the top three teams and duke it out in the playoffs.

I think, if Lundqvist is healthy, the Rangers might be the team to beat. The Penguins won't see them again unless it's in the playoffs. NYR still have one more date with the Isles and three games left against Washington to determine their place in the Metro.

They will be better with Yandle. Keith Yandle is a power play quarterback, something the Rangers hoped Boyle would be, but that never materialized. His toughness on the blue line and power play skills will make them a significantly different team for the Pens to play against.

The Isles didn't change much at the trade deadline but they didn't need to. The addition of Neuvirth gives a more dependable back up to Halak . The NYI feel they have added a solid player in Kennedy who is versatile enough to help on either the third or fourth line. They also need his playoff experience. The Twitter joke is that he'll score the game 7 goal that will knock the Pens out of the playoffs. The reality is, he very well could.

The Penguins who take the ice on Wednesday will look different. Not bigger, not necessarily grittier... but different. I look for Scuderi to be scratched in favor of the two new defensemen. I'd expect the top 6 to remain the same and I'd love to see the third line be 23, 16, 26 or 13.

We have our team now. Let the lines gel and find their rhythm. Find successful pairings for the defense and shore up that blue line. It's coming together in a good way....a winning way. Yes, I'd say the Pens are shaping up to be the best team in the Metro. 

Post script:
I didn't look at New Jersey or Carolina because, frankly, they don't matter to this discussion. I'm not saying Columbus does matter but I found their trade action interesting.

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