Penguins Roster Finalized

The 23 man roster has been set as the Penguins head into the 2013 season. The interesting aspect of the current roster was Coach Dan Bylsma’s selection of eight defensemen.

With the roster of defensemen set at eight, the Penguins had to place Brian Straight on waivers.  It is surfacing now that Strait was claimed off of waivers by the New York Islanders.  While a good pick up for the Isles, it is a difficult loss of depth for the Penguins.

It is expected that both Robert Bortuzzo and Ben Lovejoy will be the 7th and 8th defensemen in the rotation, giving highly touted prospect Simon Despres a spot among the Penguins top 4 pairing.  It is expect as well that Despres will pair with Kris Letang.

The pairing of Despres and Letang should aid in generating an offensive push given both players exceptional skating ability.  The size of Despres should also be taken into consideration (6’4, 220lbs) when evaluating the balance of the pairing. 

With the recent news of Jayson Megna and Beau Bennett returning to Wilkes Barre/Scranton, it is also expected that Eric Tangradi plays the wing alongside Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins second line now stands as Tangradi/Malkin/Neal.  Given the trio’s size and offensive prowess, it is expected that they will be matched up against the oppositions most bruising, physical defensive pairing.

The mismatch of the second line is provided when the Penguins first line takes the ice.  With Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis flanking Sidney Crosby, teams will have to choose whether or not their shut down pair is going to take the ice.  If so, then the second line will most likely carry a physical advantage.  If not, then the speed and offensive skill set of the first line will most likely be able to take advantage of a second pairing of opposition defense. 

The third line will consist of Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy flanking the summer acquisition of Brandon Sutter.  Sutter, a 6’3 185lb center, has the physical edge to his game to fit into the Penguins third line mentality.  The grit line will generate offense at times, but is placed on the ice to maintain puck possession and shut down the opposing line.  The chemistry of this line was very apparent in the abbreviated training camp and should quickly establish themselves as a great checking line.

The goaltending situation in Pittsburgh reads as follows.  Marc-Andre Fleury will be the Penguins starter with Thomas Vokoun as the backup.  In this shortened season, with plenty of back to back games on consecutive nights, it is important to have a veteran goaltender like Vokoun on the roster.  There should be no hesitation in placing Vokoun in net, even in the most crucial of games.

Game 1, Philadelphia

With the knowledge of the roster being set, it is clear as to why Pittsburgh made their choices. 

In Philadelphia, it would have been likely to see the Grossmann/Cobourn pairing against the Malkin line.  Adding the size of Eric Tangradi will help counter the strength of the big defensive pairing.

The key to this game for the Penguins is to maintain the system's approach.  They have to generate offense without creating a wide open game.  It will be crucial for the Pens to stay in the oppositions shooting lanes, forcing passes cross ice.  Taking advantage of this should generate its own offense.

If the system breaks down again, we are more likely to see these two offensive power houses score upwards of five goals apiece.