The Pittsburgh Penguins look set to finish in last place this year. With injuries to superstars Mario Lemieux, and Zigmund Palffy ending both of their illustrious careers and an injury to the newly acquired Jocelyn Thibault throwing Andre Fleury back into the thick of things its easy to see why. They had great prospects when the year began, but key injuries and bets that Mark Recchi and John Leclair weren't on their last legs didn't quite pan out. The good news is, not only will Crosby get better with experience, Thibault will be back next year, they'll have the "next Ovechkin" in Evgeni Malkin, and another high draft pick based on the fact that they will be finishing close to last, if not last in the league.
The real story in Pittsburgh this year though isn't their star rookie, it is in fact all the rookies that have put up great numbers and really haven't been mentioned. Players like Michel Ouellet who is 16th in rookies in scoring, despite having played 20 games less than anyone else above him, and in most cases 30 games less. He's at practically a point a game(33gp, 14g, 13a, 27p) which is only matched by Crosby and Ovechkin. You've got to wonder how he would be doing now if he hadn't had to play the first half of the season down in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Other Penguin highlights include Colby Armstrong, 27th out of all rookies desipite being called up midway through the season as well, (30gp, 9g, 14a, 23p), the only person to play a similar amount of games ahead of him is Ouellet, and Ryan Whitney, tied for 22nd in rookie scoring, 8th among defense-men.
I think if the Penguins could get some more high quality defense-men, to add to Whitney and Gonchar, and substantially decrease the 29.84 shots per game avg, with the added productivity from Malkin, they could do very well next year, and in 2-3 years I see them to be a forced to be reckoned with. Definite Cup contenders. Until then... Lets go Habs.