This feeling is great, the Pittsburgh Penguins are finally in a good position to make the 2016 NHL playoffs. With only 10 games remaining in the season, the Penguins sit in 3rd place in the Metropolitan Division. 6 of the 10 remaining games are against divisional opponents who would love nothing more than to ruin the streak of playoff appearances for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Many things had to be done or changed for the Penguins to make it to this position in the standings, and the hometown boys have not disappointed.
The biggest thing that happened to this team is that Sidney Crosby is back and better than ever. Recording the most goals and points in the league since the all-star break. Crosby now sits in 3rd place of the scoring title with 76 points as of today. Crosby’s ability to set up his teammates has been beyond remarkable, averaging over 1 point a game since the all-star break. One would assume that he truly bought into Mike Sullivan’s style of play. Crosby’s ability to lead is impressive, and will be needed if and when the Penguins make a run in the playoffs.
Another thing that catches my eye is the play of the young guns from Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Conor Sheary, and Scott Wilson have all been a vital key to the success of the organization. All of these players played under Mike Sullivan in the minor leagues so they knew his style and what he expected of each and every one of them game in and game out. Whether it was speed, a key goal, or a big hit these guys stepped up and found a way to get the job done. I truly believe the play of the younger players spark the leaders of this team to be at their absolute best. Ever since these guys got called up, players like Patric Hornqvist and Chris Kunitz’s play has increased steadily. Hornqvist is one of the best players in front of the net and is there to get key rebounds and generate penalties. Kunitz is hitting guys with more passion each and every game. The young guns that general manager Jim Rutherford called upon following the key injury to Evgeni Malkin (out rest of year) have done way more than anyone expected them to, there’s no reason why they cannot lead this team to compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Lastly, one of the most impressive things I have seen this year is the competitive edge that our team has against the division. In past years, playing teams like the Flyers and Rangers would cause much distress and lack of will to win, now we do not just win, we destroy them. There is not a better feeling than going into arenas like the Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia) and Madison Square Garden (New York) and coming out on the winning end, something we are not used to. The Penguins have now won 6 in a row all against divisional opponents, the most impressive being the 6-2 victory over the league’s best team, the Washington Capitals. The Capitals never really had a chance and with the stellar goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury leading the way, the Penguins jumped 2 places in the Metropolitan Division in the matter of 2 days. Continuing this surge that our team is experiencing will lead us into the playoffs with a mindset that we can beat any team that comes in our way. Teams are scared of the Pittsburgh Penguins, they have the desire to defy the odds and bring another championship to the Steel City.
The Penguins are home against the New Jersey Devils Thursday then travel to Detroit on Saturday. The rest of the season will not be a breeze and will be a significant challenge for the organization. Once the playoffs start, do NOT count out the team from Pittsburgh.
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