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8 Penguins Player Predictions for 2011-2012 Season

1. Malkin won’t hit the 50 or 40 goal mark: Evgeni Malkin is a hot name in hockey circles as he appears primed for a big season and possible return as one of the games best players. A popular pick leaguewide for Hart Trophy and Art Ross Predictions but 50+ goals?.
Excellent Pens beat writer Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review made a bold prediction this week, predicting a 53 goal season for Malkin…..I’m not ready to go that far or even a 40-goal season.
Since the 2008-2009 season, only four players have hit 50 goals:
Corey Perry (50G, 2010-2011), Sidney Crosby (51, 2009-2010), Steven Stamkos (51, 2010-2011), Alexander Ovechkin (56, 2008-2009, 50, 2009-2010).
Malkin’s goal scoring capabilities is among the top storylines with him this season and what’s going to dictate him being talked about as one of the games elite player. The big question is whether he can get back to that 50 goal potential he flashed in 2007-2008, when he scored a career high 47 goals.
A big concern with Malkin has been his plummeting shooting percentage.
2007-2008: 47 Goals – 17.2% | 2008-2009: 35 Goals – 12.1% | 2009-2010: 28 Goals – 10.4% | 2010-2011: 15 Goals – 8.2% |
For Malkin to push for 50 goals, and especially 50+ goals, he has to get back into that 16 to 19 shooting percentage range, which would be a huge jump for him.
A look at three of the most prolific goal scorers in 2010-2011: Corey Perry, 50 goals – 17.2% shooting percentage; Sidney Crosby 32 goals – 19.4% shooting percentage; Steven Stamkos 45 goals – 16.5% shooting percentage.
A key for Malkin pushing for 50 goals is getting goals from the dirty areas and I’m not sold on him becoming a force in those areas on a consistent basis, like the Corey Perry’s and Sidney Crosby’s have made apart of their game.
Prediction: Evgeni Malkin will score 38 Goals, 91 Points
2. All eyes throughout the NHL are on the return of Sidney Crosby. He continues to practice with his teammates with no setbacks but Crosby told reporters in Canada yesterday that he has been symptom free for less than a month. He will not be given clearance for contact until next week at the earliest and from there, doctors are said to likely want at least two full weeks of contact, (probably longer) to give any consideration of returning to game action.
Prediction: Following a five day break in between games, Sidney Crosby returns in November at home against the Dallas Stars on November 11th, and goes on to have a healthy season, appearing in 62 games.   
3. Neal not among two wingers who will hit 20 goal mark: Two Penguins wingers will hit the 20-goal mark this season; Chris Kunitz and Tyler Kennedy. The names left out are James Neal and Steve Sullivan.
I am predicting an up and down season for Neal who gets off to a slow start in the first half of the season and ends up finishing the season with more consistency, collecting 18 goals on the season in what will be seen as a disappointing season.  
Prediction: Tyler Kennedy will emerge as the Penguins most consistent winger at even strength, scoring 18 even strength goals but due to less power play time with the No. 1 unit, won’t see a big increase over his goal production from last season, finishing the season with 23 goals.  
Chris Kunitz will stay relatively healthy in a contract year, scoring 24 goals. Kunitz had a tremendous 17.3 shooting percentage in 2010-2011.
Steve Sullivan will deal with groin issues off and on but will be a factor in the lineup, scoring 14 goals on the season in 59 games played.  
4. Jordan Staal won’t evolve into a 30 goal scorer: Jordan Staal showed more poise with the puck in camp and the preseason, sparking talk of a possible 30 goal season. Don’t bet on it. Staal is not good enough in front of the net, most notably on the power play to get those dirty area type goals he will need to score 30 goals and he’s a player who’s gone 84 games without scoring 2 goals or more in an NHL game (including regular season, playoffs). There would have to be a drastic change in both areas.
Prediction: 22 Goals, 51 Point Season
5. Matt Cooke will play within the rules and go on to score 14 goals and post a 34 point season.

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