After an eventful regular season, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin will be central playoff figures. (Getty Images)
By Brian Cazeneuve
The mad 48-game lockout-shortened sprint is over, and the playoff field has been set. As the grueling battle for the Stanley Cup begins, here are some important questions to ponder:
Do the Penguins have Stanley Cup chemistry?
Sure, the sum of their parts is scary good. GM Ray Shero took an already intimidating roster of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Kris Letang and Marc Andre-Fleury and beefed it up with late-season acquisitions Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Douglas Murray. Those players offer a combined 3,000 games of NHL experience to Pittsburgh.
But here’s the cautionary tale: While the Pens’ collection of talent is now the most robust in the NHL (sorry, Chicago), the unit hasn’t been able to jell over any meaningful length of time. Crosby has been out since March 30 with a broken jaw. James Neal just returned from a concussion, and the Pens have been without Malkin and Letang for blocks of time. So how will all this talent mesh if and when it finally comes together?
The belief is that it will all work, in part because Iginla and Morrow have played in winning situations before (both with the Canadian Olympic team that won gold in Vancouver; Iginla also with the 2002 Olympic team and 2004 Stanley Cup finalist Calgary Flames). In those cases, they had to subjugate their talents to alter their roles for team success, which they did very well. Should the Pens pool their resources effectively, the Islanders and every other opponent along the way will be hard pressed to stay competitive.
EAST PREVIEWS: Pens-Islanders | Canadiens-Senators | Capitals-Rangers | Bruins-Leafs
WEST PREVIEWS: Hawks-Wild | Ducks-Red Wings | Canucks-Sharks | Blues-Kings
MORE PREP: Staff picks | Upset alert | Key storylines | X-factors | Power Rankings | Schedule