Pens Pointers #12

Anthony DeSimone

After losing three straight heartbreaking games in a row two weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins have rallied themselves and won straight last week.

The Penguins defeated the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals last week to earn six crucial points and propel themselves back into third place in the Metropolitan Division. The standings in the Metropolitan Division are as follows (as of 12:00 p.m. Sunday):

New York Islanders         84 Points

New York Rangers           82 Points

Pittsburgh Penguins       79 Points

Washington Capitals       76 Points

Even though winning three games is good news for the Penguins, there is even more exciting and promising news for the team.  Last Wednesday, the Pens traded Zach Sill, a 2015 fourth-round draft pick, and a 2016 second-round draft pick so that they could acquire forward Daniel Winnik from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There are three reasons as to why fans should be excited about the Penguins acquiring Daniel Winnik. The first reason is because he is an experienced athlete. Winnik has been in the NHL since he was drafted in 2004 by the Phoenix Coyotes. Since then he has been around the league in terms as where he has played.

Winnik has been a member of the Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and most recently the Toronto Maple Leafs. This experience is good for the Penguins because Winnik will be able to bring his experience in playing west-coast teams to Pittsburgh.

The second reason that Winnik was a good trade is because he is a good support player. Winnik may have only seven goals during the 58 games he played in Toronto. However, he led the Maple Leafs in the plus/minus department. In fact, his plus-15 rating that led the team in Toronto will actually place him first among Pittsburgh forwards and second overall in the team (Paul Martin leads the team with a plus-18).

The third and most important reason as to why acquiring Winnik was a good idea is because of his size. Winnik is a 6-foot-2, 207 pound shot-blocking and body-crunching machine. He led the Maple Leaf forwards in blocked shots this season with 50 and was third in the hit department with 99 hits so far.

This type of athlete was exactly what the Penguins needed as they push for the playoffs. He can set up goals for star athletes such as Sidney Crosby, Evegni Malkin and David Perron, he is not afraid to lay down on the ice to block a shot, and he is pretty good at leaving bumps and bruises on his opponents.

With all that said, most fans should be excited to see Winnik in a Penguin uniform when he and his new teammates take the ice, at home, against the Columbus Blue Jackets Sunday evening.

As for this matchup, the Blue Jackets have not had that great of a season this year. They current sit in 7th place in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 26-30-4 (56 points).  However, don’t let their record fool you. If Penguins fans recall, the Blue Jackets have beaten the Penguins in their first two meeting this year. The Blue Jackets defeated the Penguins 4-3 in a shootout in December and more recently beat the Pens 2-1 two weeks ago.

I expect to see a hard hitting contest between these two teams as this is border-state rivalry. Additionally, I think that the Blue Jackets will bring their “A-game” to the ice so that they can knock the Penguins off their three-game winning streak.

As for the Penguins, if they stick to their game plan, maintain a strong forecheck, and draw penalties like they did in Washington on Wednesday night, they should be able to breeze by the Jackets and extend their winning streak to four in a row!