They're Heating Up, The Dads, Number 500 and the "New Fleury"
What can be said about this past weekend's games aside from: amazing. The Penguins are really rounding into form and are one of the hottest teams in the league. They seem to have picked up right where they left off before the All-Star break. They are doing a lot of things right and are playing their system to perfection. Their special teams have been very impressive; especially the power play and they are getting contributions from top to bottom, even getting goals from Ronald Petrovicky, Max Talbot and Jarkko Ruutu during their road trip.
Mark Recchi has obviously been sipping from the fountain of youth, I guess playing with Sidney Crosby will do that for you. He has been amazing and is a big part of why the Penguins are in the hunt for a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. He notched his 500th career goal on Friday night and has picked up 13 points in his last 6 games (7G 6A). He is a point per game player right now, and is performing far beyond any expectation that anyone could have had for him prior to the season. With Sidney Crosby being the MVP of this team, Recchi is as close as anyone at making a run at 1B. Recchi has been a great team player and is becoming the mentor to the young core that many hoped he would be last season.
Sidney Crosby continues to do super human things and he seems completely effortless in doing them. What I mean by that is that he doesn't seem to be trying anything out of the ordinary. It is like I mentioned here in the past, it is just how he plays the game. He sees the ice like no other player and makes everyone around him better. He made a great pass to Ryan Malone Saturday night while in mid-air on his way to the ice after being tripped, but the most amazing thing was the goal he scored later in the game. Crosby picked up a loose puck that was headed into the right wing corner, and as he was falling twisted his body and snapped a backhand shot over goaltender Mikael Tellqvist's shoulder. How did he get the shot off, let alone score the goal? Those types of things are just a regular occurrence with this young man.
The Penguins Father/Son trip seems to have been a huge success. The Dads were along for the entire road trip and were able to watch their sons in situations that they normally wouldn't have been able to. They were invited to practice, had dinners with the team and had the opportunity to gold together in Phoenix Saturday morning. Most of the dads relished the opportunity to spend time with their sons in this capacity and were exciting to meet each other.
Some quotes from the dads...
Dan Whitney - Ryan Whitney
"It's been fantastic. It's been a wonderful experience and so nice of the Penguins to do this. Just to meet all the dads, they all have similar experiences, but they're from all over the world. (Ronald Petrovicky's) dad came from Slovakia, Nils Ekman's dad came from Sweden, then you've got Colby Armstrong's dad from Saskatoon. People came a long distance to spend this time with their kids. It's very special."
Henry Staal - Jordan Staal
"This is so much fun. It's fun to meet all the other dads, put a face to a name. You get to see where [the players] are, what they're doing, what their routine is. You get to become a part of it and see what goes on behind the scenes."
As I mentioned last week, I will get some player reaction about having their dads present this week...
Noah Welch is becoming the Marc Andre Fleury of this season; at least he seems to be shuttling between Wilkes Barre-Scranton and Pittsburgh as much as the young goaltender did a year ago. Welch was just sent back to WBS for the third time. Could Welch become trade bait? It is possible. I think he definitely has a future on the Penguins blue line, but there doesn't seem to be a place for him right now. If you can net a young winger, who happens to have a goal scoring pedigree, I think you do the deal.
Most people wonder if the Penguins will be active at the trade deadline. Well, I think that they just shored up one area of weakness by "acquiring" a tough, stay at home defenseman in getting Mark Eaton back. They essentially didn't have him after their 11th game of the season and have remained in the hunt. He will solidify a young defense that has been playing very well and adds a veteran shot blocking presence. Getting him back in the line-up is a psychological lift. Between he, Gonchar, Whitney and the group of effective role players that the Penguins boast this defense is no longer the laughing stock of the Eastern conference.
When the Penguins were in Dallas Friday night, Pittsburgh's own Mark Cuban took in the game and stopped in the locker room. He was seen with a white Evgeni Malkin jersey and got the young star to sign it. Could he have been admiring a future investment? Time will tell...