January grades and Pensburgh player of the month

 Past months grades and Pensburgh Player of the Month:

October; Alex Goligoski

November; Sidney Crosby

December: Crosby

The Penguins registered a 8-7 record in January; they started the month off rough with four losses in the first six games, before rebounding to win six of the last nine games of the month.  A big part of the month was spent on the road and then without starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for injury.

A reminder, as always grades are based off of expectations.  So, a guy like Eric Godard could get a better grade than a Evgeni Malkin, doesn't mean that Godard is a better player, just would have done better based on his role....

Goalies                           

Grade Comments
Marc-Andre Fleury B+ (5-4-0, 2.75 GAA, .920 save percentage on the month) Fighting through a broken finger on his glove hand, Fleury posted a solid save percentage and allowed 2 or fewer goals in the majority of his games.
Brent Johnson B (3-2-0, 3.04 GAA .903 save %) A monthly season high in minutes played, shots and saves for Johnson.  He even probably "cowboy'd up" to return from injury while Fleury was done.  And though his GAA was up, the save percentage remains strong.
John Curry F (0-1-0, 12.25 GAA .643 save %) Curry got his shot and only lasted 24 minutes.  Sure the defense in front of him played poorly and you can't read too much into just one game, but a goalie has to put a better performance than a lacrosse goalie.  Curry was brutal.  Will he ever get the chance to redeem himself?
Alexander Pechurskiy  A (0-0-0, 1.69 GAA .920 save %) As unsettling as Curry was, Pechurskiy got thrown in the fire and came out unburned, giving up only one impossible to stop goal against a buzzsaw opponent as a 19 year old on a one-day contract.  Can't hope for any more.
Defensemen         
Mark Eaton C

(15 games played, 0 goals, 4 assists, -5,  2 penalty minutes)  Eaton had a few noticably bad games, which isn't a good thing for a player of his role.

Alex Goligoski B-

(13gp, 0g, 6a, -4, 8 PIMs) Still missing a couple games to injury, Goligoski has still been unable to revert to his early season form.  Goose did have 3 PP assists and might be starting to turn the corner..

Sergei Gonchar B+ (11gp, 3g, 7a, -4, 15 PIMs)  Gonchar missed a few games but remained at nearly a point per game production and his play on the PP has helped turn the tide (7 PP points).
Kris Letang B

(15 gp, 2g, 5a, -3, 19 PIMs) Tripled his goal tally on the season this month, played in all the games and was a feisty force all month long.  Also managed to get a shot on net in at least each game, a big deal for the young player trying to contribute.

Ben Lovejoy B+

(4 gp, 0g, 0a, +3, 0 PIMs) Called up due to not much faith in Skoula and played well in another cameo.  Lovejoy by now is probably the 7th best defenseman in the system, but unfortunately for him you only need 6 a night.

Jay McKee B+ (15gp, 0g, 2a, +1, 4 PIMs)  Another solid month for the human puck blocker in McKee, providing a steady force for the team on the backend.
Brooks Orpik B+

(11gp, 0g, 2a, even, 6 PIMs) A few games missed to injury but another steady, physical month for Orpik, who again boasts the best plus/minus of the defensemen

Martin Skoula D

(6gp, 0g, 0a, -3, 2 PIMs) Skoula lost the confidence of the coach and became a healthy scratch, even when all the defensemen weren't healthy.  His time in the Pens lineup could be at it's end.

Forwards                 
Craig Adams D+

(15gp, 0g, 0a, -7, 2 PIMs) Another month of zero production and more faceoffs losses than wins for the 4th line center.  We shouldn't discredit his smart PK work, but with so many other forwards capable of that, Adams just isn't providing much.

Matt Cooke B+

(15gp, 4g, 2a, +5, 14 PIMs)  Season high this month in goals, PP goals, shots and biting incidents for Cooke.  He's stiring the pot, chipping in occasionally and playing well in all three zones.

Chris Conner B+

(2gp, 2g, 0a, even, 0 PIMs) Last time Conner was in the NHL, he made multiple mistakes that ended up in the wrong net.  This time was highlighted by a two goal game that helped the team to a win.

Sidney Crosby A-

(15gp, 11g, 9a, -2, 8 PIMs) The offensive engine that's driving this team.  Crosby had his best month in goals, shots and points/game on the season, and continues to provide the leadership and effort shift after shift, night after night.

Pascal Dupuis B+ (14gp, 3g, 5a, +4, 2 PIMs) Quietly a good month for Dupuis, who's pressed into a bigger role than perhaps his skill merits.  Only missing one game after a scary boarding incident helps fuel the folklore.
Ruslan Fedotenko B

(14 gp, 1g, 7a, -3, 2 PIMs) Fedotenko's game has come around, he's distributing the puck and more importantly driving to the net and getting shots off.

Eric Godard D

(9gp, 0g, 0a, -2, 25 PIMs) Before suffering a significant groin injury, Godard continued the usual: not much ice-time, a couple bone-headed minor penalties and adding little to the team on the ice.

BIll Guerin B-

(14gp, 4g, 3a, -5, 2 PIMs)  The vet trudges through another regular season with a good (not great or bad) middle of the season month....And he grew a sweet 'stache for losing the SO competition in practice.

Nick Johnson B+

(4gp, 1g, 1a, -2, 0 PIMs) Showed a lot of moxy in his first taste of NHL action and didn't look out of place on an even strength line with the reigning scoring champion.

Tyler Kennedy B-

(14gp, 3g, 3a, +2, 2 PIMs) The little sparkplug did what he does on the 3rd line: grind, got some good cycling time, shoot the puck and chipped in some points

Chris Kunitz I (2gp, 0g, 0a, even, 0 PIMs) Kunitz deserves props for trying to fight through an injury that would require surgery.  But, in the end he gets the I for incomplete.
Evgeni Malkin B

(15gp, 6g, 11a, -10, 16 PIMs) For all the talk of a slump, Geno broke out and started looking more like himself.  That plus/minus looks nasty and he could still probably stand to stay out of the box a little more.

Mark Letestu B

(1gp, 0g, 0a, even, 0 PIMs) Only skated 9:54 this month, but was decent in his cameo.

Mike Rupp C (15gp, 1g, 0a, -5, 8 PIMs) His offense had cooled, but Rupp still adds a grit and has been playing his role on the team well.
Jordan Staal B+

(15gp, 2g, 8a, +3, 12 PIMs) Only scored a goal in one game, but was all over the place as a center, winger, PP screener and stellar PK'er.

Maxime Talbot C-

(10gp, 0g, 1a, -4, 8 PIMs)  Another month when Talbot didn't get on track and suffered two more injuries.  But winter is about to break and as the thermometer heats up, so too does the Superstar.

Based off these performances, who's your player of the month?  Honestly, I think it's a pretty open and shut case as far as standouts, but I'm going to name the following finalists.  Feel free to make a case for a write-in in the comments if you see fit.

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