March Madness

Hit the Deck, Cannon Ball Comin’ Through!

Using a Pittsburgh Pirates home run call is about all I can say right about now, because in my mind, Ray Shero has hit a home run.

On Sunday March 24th, Shero sent prized prospect Joe Morrow and a 5th round draft pick to the Dallas Stars for a third round draft pick and veteran winger Brenden Morrow. The 34 year old former captain of the Dallas Stars is going to be bringing a few key skill sets to Pittsburgh, but none more important than that of leadership and stability.

The gritty winger will see time all over the ice for Pittsburgh. He is expected to play with Malkin and Neal, as well as time on Sutter’s wing with Matt Cooke. He will provide a net front and grinding presence to the second line and will continue to add to a great grit/defensive mindset of Pittsburgh’s third line.

Morrow is familiar with Penguins winger James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen, as both players were Morrow’s teammates in Dallas. In a recent interview with the two players, both seemed to be very excited to have him join the club. Using statements like “great character guy”, “great teammate”, “tough” make it a no brainer that Morrow is a player that will be crucial come playoff time.

His grit and leadership are going to be a welcomed addition to the Pens, but that did not mean Ray Shero was done dealing.

On Monday March 25th, the Pittsburgh Penguins sent two draft picks to the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Douglas Murray. The draft picks will be as follows; 2013 2nd round selection, and 2014 3rd round selection, however, if Pittsburgh wins two playoff series or re-signs Murray the 2014 selection will become a 2nd round selection.

Most fans in the greater Pittsburgh area are unsure on how to react to this move. Murray is seen as a monster shot blocker and devastating hitter. He is also seen as a slow moving pylon and turnover machine. What matters most is that Murray is bringing something that Pittsburgh has not had in a few seasons. He is a bruiser of a defenseman who plays only in his own end. He will be paired with a good puck mover (Niskanen or Despres) to counter his skill set. He will almost certainly be relied upon for his specialties of hitting and penalty killing. The 6’3, 245lb Swede is going to be very useful against bigger power forwards and tougher net front players, think Lucic, E. Staal, and David Clarkson.

When looking at the situation as a whole, it is very easy to see why Ray Shero has made the moves he has. He is evaluating, along with the coaches, the basic needs that remain for a stretch run and he is filling the gaps. If one was to evaluate trades as talent for talent, Pittsburgh is probably going to be a loser, but in looking at this as a trade of value, Pittsburgh is a winner. They were able to go out and get what they needed, not just what was available. The Penguins made moves that they feel will help them adapt to the playoff grind in a much better fashion than seen in the previous few seasons.

Ray Shero still has the capability to make another move, given the current number of roster players and their contract situations, but one has to think that he has made the moves he intended to make.

12 Straight!

The Penguins had yet another comeback win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday night, pushing their East leading record to 25-8-0. It marked the Penguins 12th straight victory, the longest winning streak of the shortened nhl season thus far.

 Their offense still ranks as the best in the league, but their team defense has moved into the 13th spot, despite being ranked in the bottom third just a few weeks ago. This team is gearing up for a playoff run and have hopes of having Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang return to the line up by this week’s end.

Sidney Crosby continues to dominate the league as he now sits at a comfortable 53 points on the season. His 1.6 points per game are staggeringly good, even for himself. His PP goal against Philly on Sunday marked his first in over 17 games.

Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun have turned their seasons around as well, allowing just 9 goals in the last 8 games, just adding to the Penguins great record in the month of March.