Much has been made about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ performance since the Olympics break. Here’s a list of Eastern Conference post-Olympics records for your review.
Tampa Bay: 6-4-4
New Jersey: 7-6
The Penguins are one of six teams without a winning record. Their 14 points are good for ninth-most and wouldn’t qualify them for the playoffs.
Can you name the forward who leads the NHL in minutes played? (Answer below)
In a different season, switching goalies and getting Tomas Vokoun back in the lineup would be a welcomed change for Penguins fans used to seeing late-season collapses. But Marc-Andre Fleury really hasn’t been the problem in 2013-14. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? Stay with me here, but wouldn’t it be shocking to see the Flower steal a round of the playoffs? That might be the Pens’ best chance of advancing.
While it might be nearly impossible to logically predict a Penguins upset of the Boston Bruins in the playoffs, remember that anything is possible. The oft-repeated phrase “every team starts the playoffs 0-0” is repeated often for good reason. The Toronto Maple Leafs came within an epic Game 7, third-period collapse of knocking off the Bruins last spring in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
You know the Penguins have a player matchup problem when opposing coaches are saying as much.
Trivia Answer: Sidney Crosby leads all NHL forwards with 1585:26 TOI in 2013-14.
Should the Penguins rest Crosby in advance of the playoffs?
The center is on pace to play a complete 82-game season for the first time in his career. How important is that? He’s received maintenance days in recent weeks for the first time in several seasons (he hasn’t really needed them in the past, has he?).
Many folks have suggested Crosby sit out some so-called meaningless games at the end of the regular season, given they won’t make a difference in Pittsburgh’s playoff seeding. That would ensure his health heading into the postseason. On the other hand, a “Ferrari” like him needs to be finely tuned, making a reduced workload – but not a healthy scratch — another possibility.
The Pens close out the regular season with three home games, including Wednesday, April 9th against Detroit, Saturday, April 11th – Philly and Sunday, April 12th – Ottawa.
With the suddenly real possibility of Kris Letang returning in 2013-14, there’s a good chance he’ll want to find his bearings before the playoffs. Paul Martin, Beau Bennett and even Evgeni Malkin could return before Round 1. With that in mind, the team might benefit from getting the whole gang back together – and that would include Sidney Crosby.
Is anyone concerned with the production falloff of Chris Kunitz? It’s been a long season for Crosby, but perhaps an even longer one for the fellow Canadian Olympian. The soon-to-be 35-year-old has seven points in 16 games since January. Undoubtedly, a leg contusion courtesy of the Caps’ Mike Green into the goalpost has likely factored into his point slump, but the Pens need more from Kunitz. It’s hard to believe he’s 34 years old, isn’t it? He has three more years left after 2013-14 on a cap-hit deal of $3.85 million per season.
Coach Dan Bylsma’s post-game interview after Tuesday’s loss to Phoenix.
(Courtesy, Pittsburgh Penguins)
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