The Pittsburgh Penguins were the most active team leading up to the NHL trade deadline in terms of picking up big-name players. The big question going into the playoffs next week is: Which of these players will be most important in the playoffs?
The Penguins picked up Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames, Jussi Jokinen from the Carolina Hurricanes, Brendan Morrow from the Dallas Stars and Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks in the days leading up to the NHL trade deadline.
To properly determine which of these players will be the most important in the playoffs, it is necessary to examine all four of them.
Iginla was the prize of the trade deadline this year. The 35-year-old right-wing power forward had 22 points in 31 games with the Flames, but he has made a dynamic impact with the Penguins (nine points in 11 games) after struggling initially with just a point in the first four games that he played.
The big question mark that remains with Iginla is if he will continue his offensive domination (goals in four straight games) in the playoffs once Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are full strength and playing again in the Penguins lineup.
Iginla's goal streak of four games is dominant but wouldn't be surprising normally with Crosby and Malkin in the lineup. But the astonishing part of Iginla's streak is that he had goals in three straight games before Malkin came back.
Crosby has yet to return.
Iginla, the longtime Flames captain, did his best to help out offensively while Malkin and Crosby were on the shelf, but now that Malkin is back and Crosby is skating again, Iginla will be complementary to the Penguins' already league-leading offense.
As much of an impact as analysts want to put on Iginla's play with the Penguins, he is not the most important player of the Penguins' four major deadline acquisitions.
Iginla is expected to contribute offensively, but he is just another part to the Penguins' offense.
Morrow is another former NHL captain. Morrow was captain of the Dallas Stars before agreeing to come to the Penguins. He has 22 points on the season, but 11 of those have come in the 13 games he's played with the Penguins.
Morrow is finding himself at home in Pittsburgh, as he isn't the go-to guy like he had been in Dallas for a number of years.
Playing on a line with Jokinen and Beau Bennett has helped Morrow get ice time against second-line players on the other team, meaning he can get to the net effectively and get solid scoring chances.
Through 13 games, Morrow had five goals on 19 shots (26.3 shooting percentage), a higher shooting percentage than any other year of his career. Obviously this is a small sampling of games, but Morrow has helped bring some offense to the Penguins in the absences of Malkin and Crosby.
Morrow, however, is substantially limited in where he can play. He plays on the left wing and has done so for the majority of his career.
Because of this, Morrow's effectiveness is higher when he plays left wing, an unfortunate circumstance for the Penguins because they have seven left-wing forwards (Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Jussi Jokinen and Matt Cooke to name a few).
Morrow's inability to play on the right side (where the Penguins have fewer right-wingers playing) means that in order to be effective offensively, he should occupy a left-wing spot on one of the top two lines. For this reason, Morrow should not be seen as the most important trade deadline pickup by the Penguins.
Murray is a hard-nosed, shot-blocking defenseman that Penguins GM Ray Shero picked up before the trade deadline to shore up his defense. Unfortunately, Murray has found a way to be an "even" player in the plus-minus department after a minus-three showing against Buffalo on Tuesday night.
According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune, Murray was brought in to assist the then-21st-ranked Penguins penalty kill. Murray has watched the penalty kill fall even lower (to 24th in the NHL) since his arrival, meaning he still has some work to do in that department.
Shelley Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Murray finally achieved something positive on a personal note.
Shelly Anderson @_ShellyAnderson
Murray's first goal in 146 games, since Dec. 9, 2010 vs. Buffalo. #Penguins4/18/2013, 1:13:09 AM
But even scoring a goal for the first time in 146 games isn't enough to make Murray the most valuable deadline acquisition for Ray Shero.
Jokinen does everything that a coach could ask a player to do. With 15:29 of ice time a game this season, Jokinen averages 1:16 a game killing penalties and 2:29 per contest on the power play.
The 30-year-old Finnish forward also plays center, with home and road faceoff percentages of 59.43 and 56.09 respectively, this season.
Jokinen can also drop down from the second-line center spot, where he has been playing with Brendan Morrow and Beau Bennett, to the third-line center spot if necessary, because Jokinen knows how to get to the net as a third-line player.
Jokinen may have no points in four out of his last five contests, but he still has put up two three-point games with the Penguins since his arrival (as has Brendan Morrow). He has eight points in eight contests with the Penguins, making him a key figure going forward whenever Crosby returns.
Having an "ace in the hole" with Jokinen's ability to win faceoffs along with his ability to play the third line means that Dan Bylsma will have plenty of advantages when he chooses to put out the third line in any situation.
It is due to Jokinen's ability to play different lines (and play them well at that) along with his prowess in the faceoff circle that Jokinen is the most important trade deadline acquisition for the Penguins going into the playoffs
All stats via NHL.com.
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