Today’s news about Jordan Staal’s injury is not good. In fact, it could be a crushing blow to the Penguins’ hopes of repeating as champs. Staal left last night’s game with a ‘lower-body’ injury, but it turns out it was some sort of injury to his ankle tendon. He had surgery late last night, and there are conflicting reports about whether he's done for the postseason, or just day-to-day.
In any case, no Staal leaves a gaping hole in the lineup. He’s the best third-line center in the league, and can play in all situations. In these playoffs, Staal led the Pens in shorthanded ice-time. Also, his 2 goals in the postseason both came on the power play.
He was a big reason why the Pens beat Detroit in the finals last year; his shorthanded goal in Game 4 turned that game (and series) around. There’s no one on Pittsburgh’s roster that can replace him. Max Talbot can do his best impersonation, but let’s not kid ourselves – he’s no Jordan Staal.
All of this leads us to the question of whether the Penguins can win the Stanley Cup without Staal in the lineup. I’m going to make this very simple for you… no! They can get past Montreal without him, and maybe even the winner of Bruins-Flyers. But to get back to the finals and win it without their do-it-all center is going to be a very tough task.
Staal is a perfect postseason player, and it’s a huge blow to Pittsburgh’s lineup if he is, in fact, done for the playoffs. He’s that important to this team…
(Update: The official update from the Penguins is that Staal 'is not ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs' and is 'day-to-day')
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