The NHL will have a new champion. The Pittsburgh Penguins went down to the upstart Canadiens, but there were plenty questioning if this team had the ability to be as lethal as they were last post-season. Now, they have to wonder what adjustments they'll need to make in order to get to the pinnacle once again.
The biggest disparagement is the separation between Sidney Crosby and the rest of the team offensively. Crosby lead the team in the regular season by an incredible amount, as well as the playoffs. Evgeni Malkin was effected by injuries, but it could be a little bit of an issue of the Penguins don't have the consist secondary scoring they got when they make their big run. Jordan Staal played to equal his point output, but was much better in his defensive zone with a +19 on the year. Luckily, they won't have much shuffling, as they only have to make decisions on Ruslan Fedotenko, Bill Guerin, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Matt Cooke; with all but the last one to probably going to be let go their own way. Guerin could get another one-year deal, but it depends on how he feels about coming back.
Defensively, the question will be what to do with Sergei Gonchar. He had a solid playoffs, but his regular season was hit-and-miss. With only three guys signed for next year (Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Alex Goligoski), the presence of Gonchar could be needed, if they wanted to or not. However, they could go a cheaper route with re-signing Jordan Leopold, though his lack of playoff production could have made him the rental people though he'd be in the first place. Mark Eaton and Jay McKee's worth on the team will need to be evaluate; as should Ben Lovejoy-- who has been waiting in the wings for the longest time and is now a Group VI Free Agent. Considering there's not too much out there defensively that will hit the open market, the Penguins may have to stay with the status quo or hope the young guys can pick up the workload for those that left.
The enigma of Marc-Andre Fleury continues, as he shows that he benefits from a lot of goal support. His numbers from this season and last season are pretty much on par, but it seems he's not seeing as many shots as he did last season. That could be good that he's getting more defense, but bad considering he's not stopping as much as he should be. He's a strange study and it'll be something to see how he comes out next season for the Pens. Brent Johnson is there, too-- and should be able to fulfill his role as he has done in the past few season around the NHL.
There's going to be a lot of wondering. Even now, the Penguins are in a state of shock and wondering how this all happened. However, they'll have new digs as the Igloo closes up and maybe that will bring them good tidings with a new arena and new attitude to boot. They have all the tools, they have been champions, and it's not like they will fall off the face of the Earth soon. You just think that a killer instinct could have kicked in when they faced an injured, tired team like the Canadiens were. But that's why the game is played.