This article is part of our From the Press Box series.
The Penguins entered this season with the profile of a club that was counting on its top-heavy layer of superstar talent to be a contender in the Eastern Conference.
Through the season's first three months, the Pens floundered outside playoff position due to a combination of factors. First, the experimental pairing of Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby proved to be an abject failure, as they simply could not find a workable chemistry. In fact, Crosby saw a succession of linemates that didn't click over any prolonged period at the start of this season. Meanwhile, injuries to Marc-Andre Fleury and Kris Letang, not to mention the abrupt end to the career of Pascal Dupuis, threatened to derail the Penguins' season altogether.
Dupuis was a longtime fixture on Crosby's wing, credited by many as the defensive conscience of the Penguins' top line. Undoubtedly, his retirement was a blow to the Pittsburgh captain, who subsequently endured a revolving door of new linemates and saw his productivity slide well below career norms. Meanwhile, Fleury was forced to play behind a defense corps that doesn't possess the depth and quality of most other contending teams. With a lack of offensive support compounding the issue, he was forced to face more shots than usual, and a concussion sent him to IR in December. Similarly, Kris Letang, the club's top-scoring defenseman, also missed time in December, exposing a lack of depth on the blue line. However, both players have returned healthy and productive, which