This week I'm taking a look at one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference, a surprise struggler in the West and an unsung goalie who just keeps impressing. Let's get right to it.
ARE THE PENS MIGHTIER?
The Pittsburgh Penguins have spent the past few regular seasons looking like a top-tier team only to suffer a surprising postseason flameout. This season, once again the Penguins are looking unbeatable, but the big question is: "Will this time be different?" I think the Penguins have to be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but the regular season has never been a problem for Pittsburgh. Once again, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are going to be the big test, particularly in net where Marc-Andre Fleury will need to prove his worth after signing a big contract extension recently.
The Penguins look awesome right now. They're winning low-scoring games, they're winning high-scoring games, their power play has been phenomenal and it looks as though they haven't missed Brooks Orpik or Matt Niskanen on the blue line. It appears they're really taking to heart what coach Mike Johnston asked them to do offensively and defensively. Ultimately, the need for a new message might make the difference for this team. Dan Bylsma is a great coach, but sometimes a shakeup is necessary. Beyond that, though, Pittsburgh does look sharper on defense. They don't take as many chances and the chances they take are high-percentage chances. Fleury isn't left out to dry by as many odd-man rushes as he used to be.