Updated: April 2, 2014, 2:33 PM ET

Don't count on deep run for the Pens

Olli MaattaSteve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesRookie Olli Maatta has been outstanding, but he can't carry the Penguins all by himself.

I haven't been bullish on the Penguins' playoff chances all season. When your best defenseman (Olli Maatta) is 19 years old, you are a little light in terms of a Stanley Cup run. Now, if Kris Letang returns and plays well and Evgeni Malkin has a MONSTER playoff run, then the Penguins have a chance. Otherwise, I wouldn't expect more than one playoff series win.

Maatta is having a terrific season. One thing that stands out is that he is always skating. He passes the puck, he skates. We hear coaches screaming "SKATE!" all the time. Maatta must have a recording that he wakes up to in the morning that screams "SKATE!" His car horn must be a voice screaming "SKATE!" He has been the Penguins' best defenseman this year and one of their best overall players. He certainly is worthy of a top-three finish in the Calder Trophy voting and a trip to the awards gala in Las Vegas. However, the Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon is the rookie of the year. MacKinnon is a future MVP and a breathtaking player to watch.

There are no guarantees. Look at the Edmonton Oilers, who haven't made the playoffs since reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2006 despite having three consecutive No. 1 overall picks. All you can do is keep drafting and constructing a balanced team with direction and purpose, and hope the chips fall correctly. Oh, and make sure you have a goalie. They are kind of important.

Former Wisconsin Badger Ryan McDonagh entered this season with 12 goals in 169 games. This season he already has 14. He has really elevated his game to include all three zones. Great skater, sturdy, dependable, and now has added an offensive element that the Rangers really needed. Many cases could be made for defensemen to be among the final top-three vote-getters for the Norris Trophy, and McDonagh would be one. We'll have to see how severe the apparent injury he suffered Tuesday night in Vancouver turns out to be, but overall he's had an outstanding season.

Marty finally broke through Tuesday against the Canucks, so that worry is over. And the Rangers absolutely will be in the mix. They have a decent goal differential, and key players such as McDonagh have taken a leap in the level of their play. Teams need their young players to do that because it can naturally lift the whole team.

Just an awesome Frozen Four in Philadelphia. Three strong brand names in Minnesota, Boston College and North Dakota, and a Cinderella program (in terms of where they were just 10 years ago) in Union. Plus, it caps a great 12 months for college hockey in Pennsylvania. The Frozen Four in Pittsburgh last April, the national unveiling of the Penn State hockey program/Pegula Ice Center/Big Ten alliance, Robert Morris out of Pittsburgh making the NCAA Tournament, and now the Frozen Four in Philadelphia.

That's not a terrible idea, but the Frozen Four is a big weekend with different functions. Giving everybody a break after the regional is not a terrible idea, either. Thursday's games are late in the afternoon and in prime time. And Saturday's game is also after they are done at Augusta. Plus, there might be NCAA people who want to be at both championships or spread them out instead of bunching them together.

John Buccigross | email

SportsCenter anchor
John Buccigross joined ESPN as an anchor in October 1996. He currently can be seen as an anchor on "SportsCenter." Buccigross frequently contributes to ESPN.com during the season.


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