Handing out our player awards at the All-Star Break


| Most Valuable Player, Top Offensive Player Not Named Sidney Crosby, Most Valuable Defensive Player, Top Special Teams Player, Most Under-rated Player, Unsung Hero |
|Top Rookie, Biggest Turnaround From Slow Start, Most Disappointing Player, Breakthrough Player, Best Free Agent Signing, Best Bargain |

Biggest Turnaround From Slow Start

Marc Andre Fleury
2010-2011 Stats: 23-11-2, 2.19 GAA , .925 Save Percentage, 2 shutouts
Analysis: Marc Andre Fleury got off to disastrous first month of the season, posting a 1-6-1 record during a sequence where his confidence was shaken and the fan base was revolting against him due to his slow start and a subpar playoff run in 2010.
Oh my of how things have changed. Fleury is now 22-5-2 in his last 28 starts and has emerged as a contender for the Vezina Trophy. Another stat of note is that Fleury has only given up 3 or more goals in a game, 3 times this season.
Fleury posted his 18th career shutout Tuesday night and has played an instrumental part in the Penguins No. 1 ranked PK unit.

Unsung Hero

Brent Johnson
2010-2011 Stats: 8-4-2, 2.04 GAA, .926 Save Percentage, 1 shutout.
Analysis: Brent Johnson played a pivotal part in keeping the Penguins leveled headed during the first five weeks of the season when Marc Andre Fleury was struggling mightily.
Johnson started the season 6-1-1, giving up 2 goals or less in his first 6 starts. Johnson also handled the situation with class as he was bombarded by the media for almost a month as his head coach also didn’t help the situation too much by leaving it out there with his comments that there was indeed a goalie controversy.

Most Under-rated Player

Alex Goligoski
2010-11 Stats: 9 goals – 17 assists – 26 points – +21 Rating
The Penguins No. 5 defenseman has had his ups and downs and has yet to become a serious threat on the power play but his performance this season is often under-rated by the fan base.
Goligoski is an asset off the breakout and second on the team with a +21 rating and leads the Penguins with 4 game winning goals and leads all defensemen on the team with 9 goals, good for 5th on the team. Sometimes stats are deceiving but there’s no overlooking his +21 rating.

My runner up in this category is Chris Kunitz whose having an excellent season, evolving into a goal scorer and the little things he does often gets overlooked.

Top Rookie

Mark Letestu
2010-11 Stats: 10 goals – 10 assists – 20 points – +1
The 25 year old rookie has emerged into a capable role player with some scoring touch who earned himself a new two year contract. Letestu is tied for 4th on the team with 10 goals and is an asset in the face-off circle, winning 54.4% of his draws this season.

Most Disappointing Player

Evgeni Malkin
2010-11 Stats: 42GP – 15 goals – 22 assists – 37 points – -2
Analysis: Despite battling a minor knee injury, there’s no denying that Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins $8.7 million a year forward is the Penguins most disapointing player and from a cap hit standpoint, one of the NHL’s most disapointing players.

Top Special Teams Player

Matt Cooke
2010-11 Stats: 49GP – 9 goals – 13 assists – 22 points – +12 – 2 SH goals, 5 SH pts
Analysis: The focus is on top special team performers on the PK. Could have went in a number directions and there several players you make a strong argument for but Cooke is an impact player on the PK logging top forward minutes in that area and leads the team 5 shorthanded points.

Break Through Player

Kris Letang
2010-11 Stats: 50GP – 7 goals – 34 assists – 41 points – +22
Analysis: A clear winner in this category as Letang has emerged as an All-Star defenseman after a disapointing 2009-2010 season.
Letang is second on the team with 41 points, 1st with a +22 rating and has evolved into a dynamic two-way defenseman.

Best Free Agent Signing

Paul Martin
2010-11 Stats: 50GP – 3 goals – 14 assists – 17 points – +8
Analysis: Signed to a 5 year – $25 million contract, Martin has been pivotal to the Penguins success on their backend. Not the flashiest player by any means and his play goes unnoticed because of that. A steady two-way defenseman and is 2nd on the team with 78 blocked shots. Has also been a great presence in the Penguins locker room.
Doesn’t get the type of recognition he should but he does from GM’s and scouts around the league.

Best Bargain

Kris Letang
2010-11 Stats: 50GP – 7 goals – 34 assists – 41 points – +22
Analysis: In the first year of a four year – $14 million contract, Pittsburgh is getting their money’s worth with Letang who has a cap hit of $3.5 million which ranks 4th among defenseman on the team.

Most Valuable Defensive Player

Brooks Orpik
2010-11 Stats: 44GP – 1 goal – 9 assists – 10 points – +13 – 52PIM
Analysis: A very tough call between Orpik and Letang. Based on talking with evaluators over the past couple weeks, the consensus seems that Orpik is the team’s most valuable defensive player and regarded one of the best defensive defenseman this season in matching up against the oppositions top players.
Orpik is second on the team with 122 hits and makes life difficult for the opposition. He is having what he regards as his best season and the only real negative about Orpik’s game is some bad penalties he’s been taking of late.

Top Offensive Player not named Sidney Crosby

Chris Kunitz
2010-11 Stats: 48GP – 16 goals – 17 assists – 33 points – +14
Analysis: Healthy for the first time in over a year after battling an abdominal issue last season, Kunitz is 3nd among forwards with 33 points, 2nd on the team in goals with 16 and 3rd in hits with 111.
He’s become a fixture on Sidney Crosby’s line and most intriguing about his season thus far is that he’s scoring goal scorer type of goals and not just those gritty goals in around the net.

Most Valuable Player

Sidney Crosby
2010-11 Stats: 41GP – 32 goals – 34 assists – 66 points – +20
Analysis: I don’t have to explain much on this one. As Billy Guerin said in early December, Crosby is putting an assault on the game of the hockey. Crosby’s career year though has taken a hit as he suffered a concussion during the Winter Classic and has not played since January 5th. His return is still considered at least 10-14 days away. He was on pace for career highs in goals and points.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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