Pens Pointers #10

Anthony DeSimone

After being embarrassed in Vancouver, the Pittsburgh Penguins have rebounded nicely this week with two wins in two days.

The Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 Wednesday night at home and then travelled to Ottawa where they defeated the Senators 5-4 in a shootout Thursday night. The game against the Red Wings was probably one of the best games that the Penguins have played this season so far. On the other hand, their performance in Ottawa started out great, but quickly turned into a near disaster when the Pens lost a 3-0 lead in the third period and had to go to a shootout to win.

Shootout or not, the Penguins were able to pick up four points this week, which is helping them keep pace in the race for first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Pens are still in second place, right behind the New York Islanders.  However, the two wins have given the Penguins a little bit of breathing room between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. The standings are as follows    (Standings as of 12:00 p.m. on Friday)

New York Islanders         73 Points

Pittsburgh Penguins       72 Points

New York Rangers           69 Points

Washington Capitals       68 Points

As the race for first place continues in the division, the Penguins will need to button up a few soft spots if they want to have a chance to pull away from the pack.  The first issue the Penguins need to address is Steve Downie and his penalty minutes.

Downie leads the league with 178 penalty minutes. That is 45 minutes more than Derek Dorsett who is second in the league. This is an issue because Downie’s demeanor on the ice is causing the Penguins to have to fight off a lot of penalties. Even though the Penguins have a strong penalty kill, these penalties can take momentum away from the Penguins and give their opponents a chance to score.

The second issue that I think the Penguins need to work on is how they handle the puck in the offensive zone. Time and time again, the Penguins pass the puck around one too many times and either miss out on chances or turn the puck over and generate a chance for their opponents.

Personally, I think the Penguins need to simply start throwing the puck at the net when they get the chance. This tactic worked well in the game against the Red Wings where they scored three goals in the slot off rebound chances and awkward bounces.

The last issue I think the Penguins need to work on is their Power Play. The Penguins have yet to score a Power Play goal in the month of February. They have gone 0-13 during their first six games this month. This poor performance while on the man advantage can explain why the Pens have been shut out twice already this month. They had three chances in their 3-0 loss to the Nashville Predators and four chances in their 5-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.

With all that said, The Penguins have to begin prepping for their Sunday afternoon matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks are currently in third place in the Central Division with a record of 33-18-4. This game is going to pin two of the best Penalty Kill units against one another in addition to the clash of star players such as Sidney Crosby, Evegeni Malkin, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

Expect both teams to be diving all over the ice in this Sunday matinee matchup as both teams are fighting to maintain their respective spots in the playoff race.