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Welcome to The Real DFG's Pittsburgh Penguin Autograph Project. My goal is to eventually try and get at least one autograph of every player to lace up the skates in an NHL game for the Pittsburgh Penguins. It could have been for one game or 700 games, I will add them. Occasionally I may post cards of former players in their new team uniforms. While the goal is to get autos in Pens uni's, it isn't always possible. Since the team has been in existence since 1967, the list is pretty large. Last I checked, it was somewhere in the range of 624 different players. Currently, I sit at about 100 autographs (with some duplication). Enjoy the posts.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Aleksey Morozov

Morozov was always a guy I could get behind and, as well as all Pens fans, I had high hopes for his success. I loved it when the Pens drafted him and I loved when he got his first shot in the NHL.  He was talented, could shoot from virtually anywhere, and had a brilliant on-ice presence knowing all the time where his teammates were.  Being the budding superstar that he was, he fittingly did it just like Mario, scoring his first goal on his first shot on his first ever NHL shift.  This guy could have been a monster player, dare I say maybe even better than Jagr?

But just like the hype machine that goes with most prospects, it wasn't going to pan out well for Morozov in the end.  Despite playing the better part of 7 seasons with the Penguins, his career didn't take off in the NHL as it should have because just like the current Penguins team, the team of the mid-late 90s was stacked with depth.  He played the majority of his career stuck behind Jagr, Lemieux, Martin Straka, Alexei Kovalev, and Robert Lang.  

Aleksey showed flashes of greatness almost every time he stepped on the ice.  Unfortunately, as his chances were limited to bottom rung lines, those flashes weren't consistent enough.  Plus, since his game was honed in the larger, European rinks, he was more of a perimeter player and his skating abilities were frequently called into question.

In 2001-02 he broke the 20 goal mark for the first time, potting exactly that, with 49 points.  Media hype in Pittsburgh started up again and expectations were pushed higher.  He even earned the nickname "The Devil Killer" after Martin Brodeur said before a game that Morozov was in his brain all the time and he had nightmares about facing him.  Like everything in Pittsburgh sports, the good comes with the bad.  His play was anything but physical and he shied away from contact often, winning no support from Pittsburgh fans.  Even the great scorers like Lemieux, Francis, and Jagr weren't afraid to mix it up.  Morozov couldn't...didn't.  

Playing on the line with Lemieux and Kovalev, he barnstormed his way to 25 points in 27 games in the first part of 2002-03.  But again, the physicality of his game came into play and a hard check into the boards fractured his wrist, putting an end to the potentially magical season.  After that, the wheels fell off the Penguin train and they were horrible.  Lemieux had his back issues, Kovalev was traded, and the stacked Pens suddenly became a rock's throw from being an embarrassment.  The following year started much the same, although Aleksey was able to lead the team in scoring due to a monster stretch run.  But the lockout in 2004-05 sent him home to play for the Russian Superleague (alongside Vinny Lecavalier, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dany Heatley, and Brad Richards) where he continues to play today (of course it's now the KHL and those guys aren't there).  

It's just another case of a player that is a Superstar at home but a mortal in the NHL.  It happens more often than not and year after year of being one of the top scorers in the KHL has made him a legend in that league.    

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