Penguins Finding Their Game At the Right Time
By Patrick Hoffman
It is quite amazing how fans overreact in the beginning of the season.
When teams get off to slow or bad starts, fans are quick to come out and say things like "this team will not make the playoffs" or "they should go ahead and fire the coach". While fans feel justified in saying these kinds of things, they often end up being wrong when all is said and done.
The perfect example of this in the NHL this season are the Pittsburgh Penguins. After getting off to a sluggish start this season coming off their second straight Stanley Cup, the Penguins are back in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference and seem primed to take a run at their third straight Cup.
As of this writing (February 6, 2018), the team is third in the Metropolitan Division with 61 points. Obviously, by the time this article goes up on the site, their position could be different, but this actually puts them one point behind the New Jersey Devils for second place in the division and four points behind the Washington Capitals for first in the division.
There are several reasons why the Penguins have been able to turn it around. For starters, the play of the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel has been terrific.
We'll start with Kessel, who believe it or not, is first on the team in scoring (As of February 6, 2018) with 63 points (23 goals and 40 assists). He's shooting the puck more this season, he's finding his teammates open in the offensive zone, and he's been hard to knock off the puck.
Malkin has also been a solid offensive contributor this season. He is currently (As of February 6, 2018) second on the team in scoring with 60 points (29 goals and 31 assists) and has continued to develop strong chemistry with Kessel.
Crosby, after getting off to a slow start, has found his game again. He is third on the team (As of February 6, 2018) with 58 points on 17 goals and 41 assists.
Secondly, the team is starting to get somewhat consistent goaltending. When starter Matt Murray was out, Tristan Jarry filled in admirably and is now (As of February 6, 2018) 9-4-2 with a 2.44 goals against average, a .919 save percentage and two shutouts.
Murray, who has dealt with injuries and the death of his father this season, is 17-12-1 with a 2.93 goals against average, a .905 save percentage and one shutout. These numbers should improve as he gets between the pipes more consistently.
Lastly, they are starting to show why they are still the team to beat in the East. They may not be the best team in the Conference standings-wise, but they are still the most dangerous team and the most playoff-tested team.
Come April, this team will be the one to beat if you want to win the Cup.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.