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With added expectations, how will the Penguins handle the pressure?

Mar 28, 2013, 12:43 PM EDT

Sidney Crosby Getty Images

“The pressure’s on.”

Ray Shero couldn’t have put it any better as he addressed the media Thursday morning after acquiring Jarome Iginla in a trade with the Calgary Flames.

Because if there’s a New York Yankees in the NHL right now, it’s Pittsburgh.

How the Penguins respond to their general manager’s wheeling and dealing — which also brought them veterans Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray — will be interesting to watch down the stretch and into the playoffs.

“On the road, we aren’t going to be a very well-liked hockey team,” said Shero.

While the Penguins have no shortage of experience winning, there remains the memory of last year’s first-round playoff exit — not the finest moment in the club’s history.

The list of things the Penguins failed to do against Philadelphia was long; however, maintaining their composure was right up near the top.

What will happen this year when they face the inevitable adversity? Will the expectations come crashing down upon them again?

To no surprise, it didn’t take long for the first “five reasons the Penguins aren’t a mortal lock for the Stanley Cup” list to come out.

Also not surprising: goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was the top reason.

The last reason? “The Crushing Weight of Expectations.”

Of course, if you ask Shero, there’s pressure for every team, not just the favorites — “If you’re in 15th place, the pressure’s on.”

But millions of hockey fans won’t be watching the league’s bottom dwellers in the spring.

The Penguins, on the other hand — already with the world’s best player in Sidney Crosby, and now joined by a future Hall of Famer seeking his first Cup — will be front and center.

  1. isphet71 - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    One hot goalie can end all this hype. Or one cold goalie.

    • trbowman - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:02 PM

      Last year’s Penguins/Flyers series was a disgrace to hockey. Absolutely terrible hockey. Awful defence, and Fleury and Sievegalov were fighting a “who can let in more horrific goals?” game. Puke.

      At least Fleury has been good so far this year and the Pens have a much better backup than Brent Johnson in Vokoun. Sievegalov has been his usual self this season.

      • missthemexpos - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:34 PM

        You can talk about Iginla and Morrow all you want, however signing Vokoun as the back-up goalie might have been the best move of all. When your best goalie is not performing or has an injury, then you realize that your back-up is all that stopping you from an early playoff exit.

    • misterchainbluelightning - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:28 PM

      Those 5 thumbs down must be from Caps and Pens fans who forget what Halak and the Habs did to them one playoff year.

    • aldog83 - Mar 28, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      This team reminds me if the 2003 Colorado Avalanche……..

      They had Sakic & Forsberg then added Selanne & Kariya

      Result…….

      1st round playoff exit.

      Uhhhh.

      No pressure Penguins!

  2. mj1818 - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    Go Pens!

  3. trbowman - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    That team was Cup or bust even before the Iginla trade.

    On paper they should be playing in June, though paper doesn’t mean a whole lot as we’ve all discovered.

  4. bgrillz - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Here comes all the haters. Bring it on guys. That was last year. This is this year. They learned. Different squad. And the guys they got, Morrow, and Iginla are captains. They have playoff experience. This team is angry from what happened last season. And you can see it in their attention to detail this year.

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:52 PM

      Not ready to crown a team before even a trade deadline has passed is not the same as hating.

    • stakex - Mar 28, 2013 at 3:56 PM

      Its also not hating on a team to point out some obvious facts. The core guys that are going to make or break this team are the same as last year… Malkin, Crosby, Letang, and Fleury. They all won a Cup together and know as well as anyone how to get it done. Yet they folded like a lawn chair last year… and its a valid question to wonder if that will happen again.

      Not to mention Fleury is perhaps the most over rated starting goalie in the NHL, and the Pens defense isn’t much better this year then last. I would fear them more if they splurged on their back end… but putting all their eggs in the “we’ll simply out score teams” basket is a terrible way to win a cup, as it was last year.

      The Pens might be on fire right now, but a winning streak in March doesn’t win a cup. We’ll see how things go when the meaningfull games start and their defense and goaltending are under serious pressure.

  5. bobhpine - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    It’s hockey…nothing is ever set in stone…bounces are part of it, one goal games will be the norm in the playoffs and as talented as the Penguins are, Jaroslav Halak has gotten hot and stopped them in the past.

    This is already so much fun, speaking as a Penguins fan. Seeing this many great players go for a Cup will be awesome.

    Pressure is waking up with hungry kids These guys are going to have fun playing together.

    I’m gonna have fun watching it.

  6. danaking - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:58 PM

    I always enjoy reading how Fleury will be the weak link come playoff time. He has won a Cup, you know. Last year was a melt down by the whole team, from Crosby on down. Fleury takes too much grief.

  7. trbowman - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Either way, if it’s true that he vetoed the Bruins trade – Iginla boned Calgary. Royally

    That deal was actually worse than Boston’s. I’ve seen Agostino play for Yale a bit and he has an NHL future, though he’s hardly a great prospect. Hanowski? I wouldn’t expect him to ever be an NHL regular. And you’re talking what will likely be a really high first rounder.

    I’m none too please with Iginla if I’m Feaster or a Flames fan.

    • mathieug79 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      I wouldn’t consider that Boning Calgary. At least they received something for him. Mats Sundin “Boned” the Maple Leafs, they got nothing in return. Did it really matter in the end?? No, fans still love him!

    • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      I’m sorry – why does your opinion carry weight as far as how far these kids will go, again? Both these kids are high school record setters, I think Hanowski (the one you don’t think can make it to the NHL) holds some kind of record in Minnesota, both playing well at the collegiate level, these are legitimate prospects. Lots of up side to both. Plus a first. All for giving us Iginla for 3 months. You know, if he wants, he could be back in Calgary next fall, right? It was Calgary’s idea to trade him – not Iginla’s.

  8. bgrillz - Mar 28, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    And the New York Yankees comparison is unfair. Pittsburgh operates under a cap. The Yankees didn’t trade for most of their guys, they go out and spend big dollars on free agents. Poorly written article Jason.

    • Jason Brough - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      You may be getting bogged down in the details of the comparison. The Penguins have a loaded roster with a lot of big-money players. As a result — as Shero says — people will be cheering against them. If you’re a fan of the team, I recommend enjoying it.

  9. itripledogdareyou - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:00 PM

    That will be the test but I believe the current streak has said a lot about this team. They can play defense, they can come from behind, they can rely on their 2nd & 3rd line for scoring, they can win tight games. Bringing in a class act and leader like Iginla will only help come playoff time. Nothing’s guaranteed but I think most hockey fans outside Philly and Boston would like to see Iggy holding the Stanley Cup this summer.

  10. whiskytango333 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    One of the reasons why guys like Morrow and Iginla were brought in was for the veteran leadership they provide. Hopefully this leadership will help avoid another first round meltdown.

    • chanceoffleury1 - Mar 28, 2013 at 5:54 PM

      Avoiding the Flyers in the first round is probably the most important step to avoiding a meltdown. Luckily Philly is helping us out and it looks like that will be a pretty easy thing for the Pens to do.

  11. tdrusher225 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    They’re scary, but you don’t get anything for being great on paper. They would’ve won the Cup last year if that were the case. No Pens fan wants to hear this, but Iginla isn’t a great fit on their team and I wonder if chemistry may become an issue. But that’s one of the very few issues they have.

  12. bobhpine - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    They Pens more like the Heat without the clumsy guarantees (“not 5, not 6, not 7″)…The Heat operate in a salary cup structure and it’s a team of superstars and good players who took less to play together…which is precisely what the Pens are.

    The Yankees pay top dollar for every player and have to pay the luxury tax every year.

  13. mclovinhockey - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    Pfft, nothing is a guarantee in hockey, sure the pens looks like an Allstar team, but the islanders could just get hot at the right moment and win the cup as well.

    Although if I put money on it I would say the pens don’t bust. Then again I’ve seen teams add 3 captains in one off season and not win before.

    • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      Not sure what the thumbs down are about, you said it perfectly. A lot of it will depend on the chemistry, but I’m thinking with these guys (hopefully) there could be a match. Neal’s played with Morrow and will be playing on his line now it looks like, Iginla has played and done well with Sid. Again, all on paper.

      • comeonnowguys - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:06 PM

        It’s a hockey high. Winning streak + surprise acquisition = not interested in any type of buzzkill.

      • hockeywithdrawal - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:22 PM

        ahh – that I understand.

  14. phillyphanatic77 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    No question they’re the deepest team in the league, but everyone said they would easily come out of the East last season (not meant to be a shot at Pens fans). They’re deeper this year, no question, but if they don’t atleast make the Finals and most likely win then it will be an epic failure. And when they face any adversity in playoffs how do they handle it? As soon as they started struggling they lost all their focus last year. And like others have said, one hot goalie can change everything. They probably have the most pressure of any team in the last decade, and that can sink you when times get tough. Another potential stumbling block is chemistry. They have been rolling this season with their top line tearing it up, so do you really wanna break that up? No one can predict the future so idk about any of those issues, only time will tell. They’re ridiculously talented, but the most talented team doesn’t always win. Still they have a hell of a shot.

    • tkovacs2 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      A…a reasonable, grounded-in-reality Flyers fan? I…..like it.

      All valid points. Chemistry is the least of my concerns as a Pens fan. Had they brought in guys with big egos I’d be concerned, but all three acquisitions are all well-respected, high character guys. I think Morrow and Iginla will also be major calming factors in that locker room if/when things start looking bad, like the Flyers debacle last spring where they got under the Pens skin and completely took them off their game.

      I think back to the 92-93 squad (Best in Pens history, President’s Trophy winners) that SHOULD have demolished everyone and everything in their path that got upset by the Isles. No better proof that the best team doesn’t always win.

      That being said, I feel great about their chances this year. Love the acquisitions, In Shero We Trust.

      • chanceoffleury1 - Mar 28, 2013 at 6:15 PM

        1992-93 squad also played more games than any other team from 1990-1993 because it was right after their back to back cups. Those 2-3 extra months start to add up when they end up playing an extra 6 months, 9 months, even a year’s worth of hockey that other teams aren’t playing because of the deep runs year after year. LA kinda got lucky because they got a couple extra months off that normal cup winners don’t get.

        Should be a great playoff race on all sides! Still pulling for a Hawks/Pens final though. As much as I love underdogs, I love just as much when top teams just come in and tear everyone to shreds before coming to a final showdown for the ages. I love it even more when one of those top teams is my favorite team.

  15. sjsharks66 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    As it sits the pens are STACKED. 2 great goaltenders and just tons of offensive and defense skill.

    If they don’t win the cup, the amount of trash talk will NEVER end.

    • eigglesnosuperbowls - Mar 28, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      approval seeking

  16. guinsrule - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    It’s good that the Pens got Iginla, it’s even better that they kept him away from Boston.

  17. tsi431 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:44 PM

    Anyone else getting tired of hearing the “on paper” statement? So annoying. Just say the Pens are the best team in the league. The best team doesn’t always win in any sport, it always the hottest team.

    • comeonnowguys - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:53 PM

      I get where you’re going, but they’re not always the same thing. See: “Dream Team” Eagles.

  18. drwang13 - Mar 28, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    I hope they fail miserably

  19. gamechanger87 - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    Too bad The Franchise will not lose a game the rest of the season, playoffs included. I heard that Bettman is going to hand us 2 Cups in July for Sid & Friends to hoist. Get the party started people!

  20. crashtheboards55 - Mar 28, 2013 at 2:41 PM

    A couple of players are not enough to erase how poorly the Penguins performed the past 3 postseasons. Yes the Pens had some injuries but until the Penguins perform and get past the past 3 postseasons, Pens fans need to quit talking like the Cup has already been won. They have aquired good leadership and a stong physical presence that they have lacked. I am hoping this helps. Until then i am hoping that injuries are minimal and they keep their focus through the end of the season.

  21. tomahawk12 - Mar 28, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    crash…do you have any examples we can read of Pens fans exhibiting that attitude of already won the cup? I have read quite a bit today on the Pens….and all I see are happy Pens fans with a cautious tone?

    • crashtheboards55 - Mar 28, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      See gamechanger87 above.

  22. 5hole26 - Mar 28, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    you said it gamechanger87. ill get the champagne ready, you get the party hats and kazoos cus this team isnt losing another game this season!!! its great to be a fan of the franchise!!!!

  23. gamechanger87 - Mar 28, 2013 at 7:21 PM

    I have already reserved a spot for us in front of the Point State Park fountain, it can shower down upon us as we boast of Shero’s pillaging of the league and fill the Cup with IC Light and sip on it with Savior Sid & Co.

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