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Penguins Hope Progression Continues This Season

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

(Pens TV - Game Preview )


The Pittsburgh Penguins are looking for more in 2007-08.

They start their quest Friday at 7 p.m. in Carolina against the Hurricanes.

FSN Pittsburgh will televise the contest at 7 p.m., while 105.9 The X will start its radio broadcast with a pregame show at 6:30 p.m. The broadcast may be found live through streaming audio on pittsburghpenguins.com as well. Tune in for Penguins Hotline following every game on 105.9 The X and the Penguins Radio Network. Join in the conversation with hosts Bob Grove and Joe Sager by calling the Penn Telecom toll-free line at 1-866-922-2874.

 Email crashthenet@pittsburghpenguins.com and maybe Bob Grove or Phil Bourque will answer your question during the second intermission of the game.

Last season, the Penguins made a significant surge.

The team increased it 2005-06 points total by 47 in 2006-07 – the fourth-biggest turnaround in NHL history from one year to the next. And, the Penguins earned their first Stanley Cup playoff berth since 2001.

However, the Penguins saw their season come to an end against the Senators. Ottawa won the series, four games to one, and eventually went on to play in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Instead of focusing on the disappointment of their postseason elimination, the Penguins hope to benefit from that playoff experience.

“It seemed like we kind of learned how to win last year. We were pretty persistent. Even when we were down in the third period, we found ways to win and that’s what good teams do,” Jordan Staal said. “We learned that last year. In the playoffs, we learned a lot, too. Hopefully this season, we can do the same things and obviously get deeper in the playoffs.”

The Penguins progressed significantly last season with a very young team. This year’s squad remains youthful, but more experienced – which is a huge bonus.

“We made a big improvement last year and we felt what the playoffs are like. I believe we’re going to improve even more this year, game-wise, because guys are going to play better and better,” veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. “If you look at us, everyone came out of training camp in a good mood and in good shape, so I believe we’re ready for it.

“We had a lot of success last season. I am excited about the season coming up.”

Indeed. The Penguins enjoyed a very successful campaign as a team and many of its players excelled. Sidney Crosby racked up 120 points to claim the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer. He was awarded the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP and the Lester B. Pearson Award as the league’s “most-outstanding player” as voted by his peers.

Evgeni Malkin overcame a shoulder injury that sidelined him for much of training camp – as well as an adjustment to an entirely new culture and language – to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year when he racked up 85 points.

As an 18-year-old, Staal surprised many by making the Penguins out of training camp. He finished the season with 29 goals, including seven short-handed tallies, which led the NHL and established a league rookie record. In addition, he paced the NHL in shooting percentage (22.1), which is another NHL rookie record. He was a Calder Trophy finalist as well.

Gonchar enjoyed one of the most-successful seasons of his 13-year NHL career. He matched a career best with 67 points and set a career mark with 54 assists. He finished second in the NHL in defenseman scoring behind Anaheim’s Scott Niedermayer, who had 69 points.

In his first full NHL season, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury posted 40 wins – the second-most in one season for a Penguins goaltender. Tom Barrasso earned 43 wins between the pipes in the 1992-93 campaign. Fleury’s 40 triumphs tied for third in NHL last season.

Fleury also posted career-bests with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage in 67 games. 

Finally, head coach Michel Therrien was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s most-outstanding coach for guiding the Penguins on their impressive campaign.

Nevertheless, the Penguins don’t focus on individual accomplishments. They know that personal accolades will come with team success.

“We’re a real tight group, there’s no question about it. There are some great guys in this dressing room and we have a lot of fun,” Staal said. “Especially when we were winning last year, we were having a lot of fun. Hopefully we can do that again this year.”

And, despite all the achievements, it’s not last season anymore.

“That’s the good thing about this club – nobody is satisfied. Everybody is trying to improve every day and everyone is working hard every day,” Gonchar said. “It’s probably the biggest plus that we have – we’re all hungry and we’re all looking forward because we’re not satisfied with what we have.”

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