The March of the Penguins
A four game losing streak from the Washington Capitals has turned a seven point lead in the division to now a one point lead over a seven day span.
Pittsburgh with a win tonight vs the red-hot Calgary Flames would move into sole possession of first place.
As the Capitals were steamrolling through teams, when the club acquired Kevin Shattenkirk they not only strengthened themselves for a Stanley Cup run, which they did with the acquisition, but it was widely assumed first place would stay a bit of reach for the Penguins.
But, spring is upon us and we may be seeing another ‘March of the Penguins’
The Penguins may say it doesn’t matter where they finish, but it matters to the coaching staff who always want home-ice. There will certainly be a strong push to go for the division.
It’s quite a difference in facing the Islanders or Maple Leafs in round 1 than a first round matchup with Sergei Bobrovsky or the Washington Capitals if the Blue Jackets were to win the division.
Pittsburgh 5-1 in their first six games of March with a 22-11 goal differential during their current five game winning streak, went 12-4 last March that saw them spring together a stretch of 14 wins in 16 games before the playoffs.
Still a ways to go whether we see another big surge like that but last season the Penguins started hitting their peak when Evgeni Malkin went down with an injury on March 11.
This stretch here the Penguins are hit very hard throughout their lineup with injuries in a different way as the Penguins are missing their best defenseman in Kris Letang and three top-9 forwards in Bryan Rust, Carl Hagelin, and Patric Hornqvist, among others.
What’s playing out here for the Penguins is all three lines are producing with Nick Bonino looking like the Nick Bonino of last spring again but the dynamic that should be scary for the rest of the league is how well Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are going at the same time right now.
Sidney Crosby held off the score sheet Friday night vs the Oilers…….Saturday night it’s Evgeni Malkin held off the scoresheet and the Crosby line goes out and has a dominant night, 2 assists, 9 shots from Crosby, Goal, Assist each for Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel.
Folks in the organization continue to believe the pressure being off from winning last season for Crosby and Malkin has been so beneficial for both and it’s continuing to show in their play and likely will continue into the playoffs.
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