Pens Pointers #13

Anthony DeSimone

The Pittsburgh Penguins have brought their A-game to the ice as the NHL regular season presses forward into the month of March.

The Penguins have returned from a very well-played four game west coast road trip. They were able to pick up five crucial points in their wins against the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings. They also were able to pick up an extra point in their shootout loss against the San Jose Sharks.

These points are helping the Pens keep pace with the New York Islanders and New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division. However, the Rangers have gone 8-1-1 in their last ten, which has both propelled them into first place and given them a decent lead over the Penguins. The current standings are as follows, (as of 12:00 p.m. on March 12).

New York Rangers           91 Points

New York Islanders         90 Points

Pittsburgh Penguins       86 Points

Washington Capitals       82 Points

Don’t be discouraged though, because there are still 16 games left for the Penguins in the regular season, which means there are plenty of opportunities to pick up, close-in on the Rangers, and overtake the top spot in the division. In fact, the Islanders have played 69 games already, which means they only have 13 games left in the season.

This means that the Penguins can possibly earn six more points than the Islanders can before the season is over. I’m no mathematician, but considering that the Islanders are only four points ahead, this is a huge advantage for the Penguins.

Regardless of the standings, I feel that the Penguins will have no problem making the playoffs this year and even have a decent shot a winning the division. Since the beginning of March, the Penguins have been playing some of their best hockey this season. The bench is more animated, players are making diving efforts on the ice, and the goaltending has been phenomenal by both Marc-Andre Fleury and Thomas Greiss.

Speaking of goaltending, Fleury has been flat-out astonishing this season. He leads the league with nine shutouts and he has a save percentage of .984 over his last two starts. Thanks to Fleury’s amazing goaltending and the backup contributions of Greiss, the Pens have only allowed an average of 2.36 goals per game, which is fourth best in the league.

On top of the Penguins extra effort performances each night, Jim Rutherford has made some “interesting” trades at the deadline in an attempt to find the final pieces necessary to build a Stanley Cup winning team. Fans have had mixed emotions about the moves Rutherford has made, but let’s face it, fans are never happy with anything that the Penguins do, even when they win a game.

Whether the fans agree with the trades or not, all Penguins fans can agree that they are excited for tonight’s matchup against the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have once again had a dismal season and find themselves in 29th place in the league. However, the Penguins did acquire David Perron from the Oilers so we can at least thank them for that.

I expect a solid effort from the Oilers tonight. However, the Penguins should be able to easily win this game due to Fleury’s net presence and Evgeni Malkin’s strong play that he has brought to the ice so far this month.