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Grading October, and the Player of the Month

The Pens close the book on October 2009 with an Eastern Conference high 22 points in the standings and boasting an impressive 11-3-0 record. They're a perfect 6-0-0 away from Mellon Arena. If you want a bittersweet moment think of this: there'll never be October hockey in Mellon again. Kind of staggering to think of it like that, isn't it?

We turn the calendar to November, the players keep trudging on, no real big deal for them. But it makes a nice, clean break to grade them. All grades are given based off of player expectations relatively to their role. So, hypothetically, if a guy like Mike Rupp gets a better grade than a Sidney Crosby it doesn't mean Rupp is necessarily better, just better based off of what he's supposed to do.

Goalies Grade Comments
Marc-Andre Fleury A- 9-2-0 record, strong .918 save percentage and a sterling 2.07 goals against average. Even better, Fleury deserves praise for the improvement he's shown playing the puck.
Brent Johnson A- Johnson has an identical save percentage (.918) to Fleury. Ideally the backup isn't a dropoff from the starter, so far so good for the veteran.
Mark Eaton B-

Eaton hasn't stood out much, but given his style of play, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Alex Goligoski A+

Highest praise for the guy currently leading the league in plus/minus. 12 points in 14 games for Goligoski, who played as well as any defenseman in the entire league.

Sergei Gonchar A- 8 points in 9 games and his customary spot as team leader in ice-time before breaking a bone in his wrist. Get well soon, Sarge.
Kris Letang C+

Zero goals, five assists this month. Letang hasn't been bad, but the Pens need him to be productive, especially in Gonchar's absence.

Jay McKee A Brought in as a shot-blocking defenseman, McKee leads the NHL with 44 blocked shots. That earns an A this marking period.
Brooks Orpik B+

Tied for first amongst NHL defensemen in hits (43), and a fair amount of blocked shots (26). Has taken seven minor penalties, could do a little better of not taking stick penalties.

Martin Skoula C+

Skoula had to jump into the lineup on a new team, always tough, and he's done reasonably well. Hasn't made any major gaffes in his five games, but hasn't made many plays either.

Craig Adams B-

He does a little bit of everything and generally does it well. Could stand to bump up that faceoff percentage though (45.9%)

Chris Bourque C-

Has gotten into six games, hasn't created very much, despite seeing some minutes with the reigning scoring champion.

Chris Conner C Only played these last two games in limited minutes. He's shown nice speed but has been contained by bigger defensemen.
Matt Cooke B+

Decent numbers with 2 goals and 3 assists and the usual good PK work. Cooke draws an extra bonus for being 5th in the league amongst forwards in hits. He's not taking shifts off, he's forechecking and finishing checks every time.

Sidney Crosby A-

At the top of the league in faceoffs, 4 for 4 in shootouts, team leader in goals (9) and points (16). Just another month for the fabled captain.

Pascal Dupuis C+ Two goals this month for Dupuis, who's mainly seeing bottom six even strength minutes. His penalty kill work has been good.
Ruslan Fedotenko B-

Quietly a decent month for Rusty with six points. His 29 shots is a slightly higher per game average over his past two seasons, hopefully he keeps shooting.

Eric Godard D

Godard's point-less in 11 games -- and maybe pointless too, he only has two staged fights and a measely 4:34 per game in ice-time. When he's been out there though he's made a good effort at actually playing hockey though.

BIll Guerin B

The graybeard had 9 points in the month, but only three goals (none of which Crosby assisted on). We know enough to know Guerin will be there when it counts, hopefully he's pacing himself to have enough in the tank for the long season.

Tyler Kennedy A

Kennedy's been on a scoring upswing, with 5 goals in 11 games, three of which ended up as game-winners. Nice to see his hard work was being quantified with points, hopefully that doesn't change when he returns from his undisclosed injury.

Chris Kunitz B+ More assists than Sidney Crosby so far. Kunitz has broken out of his goal slump, with 2 in the last three games of the month. He's distributed the puck well, and needs to keep driving the net (and hopefully lighting the lamp).
Evgeni Malkin B+

Soldiering through a shoulder issue for part of the month, Geno still put up 14 points in 12 games. When he returns, at full strength, the team will be better for it.

Mike Rupp B+ Rupp's been impressive: despite only playing 8:40 a night, he's already matched his 2008-09 season total in goals (3) in one month. His play has been a pleasant surprise.
Jordan Staal C+

Staal's played very well at times, but in the last eight games he's got zero goals (and only has one assist). Now, more than ever with Malkin's injury, Pittsburgh needs Staal to produce points.

The Honor roll (finalists for player of the month) is pretty big, given the great month the team had. Make your choice for Pensburgh player of the month and feel free to lobby for a different grade if you see something that doesn't quite look right.