Pens Pointers #8

Anthony DeSimone

With Crosby injured, Malkin out and the team struggling to win games, I think it’s safe to say that the march of the Penguins has come to a grinding halt.

Crosby missed the NHL All-Star game and has been given an injection to help with a lower-body injury, but will most likely be out of the lineup for the game against the Winnipeg Jets. The injury has been something that Crosby has been battling since the Penguins 2-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Jan. 10.

Malkin is also suffering from a lower-body injury that caused him to miss the All-Star game as well this past weekend. Malkin’s injury occurred during the second period of the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 20. He has since been placed on the team’s injured reserve list.

Additionally, the Penguins power play has gone cold. They have only scored on one of their past 11 power play attempts during the past three games. This lackluster performance has resulted in fewer goals per game and has clearly been frustrating everyone on the team.

Speaking of the team, they have been struggling to win over the past month. Their record is 4-3-3 in the past ten games and 4-6-4 in the past month. This sub-par record includes the team’s current four-game losing streak in which they have been defeated by the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Penguins have clearly lost any momentum that they had built up early in the season and it is now showing in the standings. The Penguins have now fallen to fifth place in the Eastern Conference and are in second place in the Metropolitan Division, only three points behind the Islanders for first place.

Second place sounds pretty good considering the team’s recent struggles. However, keep in mind the Rangers and Washington Capitals have been able to close the points gap on the Penguins and are now right on their heels. Both teams have moved to within three points of the Pens.

This means that if the Penguins continue to struggle, they can soon find themselves fighting for a wildcard position instead of the top spot in their division.

Thankfully, the team survived until the All-Star break. Hopefully these past few days gave the Penguins an opportunity to catch their breaths and rest for a few days. This should provide some boost to the morale of the team as they begin to make a push for the playoffs during the last 36 games of the regular season.

With that said, the Penguins will try to get the ball rolling again tonight as they face off against the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are doing fairly well this season as they are in third place in the Central Division with 60 points (26-14-8) and have gone 7-2-1 in their last ten games.

The interesting challenge that the Jets bring to the table is their exceptionally good record when they play on the road. The Jets are 14-5-5 when they are on the road as opposed to 12-9-3 when they are home. This means that even though the Penguins are home tonight, that doesn’t guarantee they will have the home ice advantage.

What the Penguins do have is the pressure that if they lose tonight, they will extend their losing streak to five in a row. This will not sit well in their minds and certainly won’t sit well in the minds of their fans.

I know there are still a lot of hockey games left to play this season, but I feel that this game is a must-win for the Penguins if they want to retain their position in the standings and if they want to begin to rebuild some of that early season momentum.

Additionally, the Pens will have to find a way to win without having Malkin or Crosby in their lineup tonight. Talk about a tall task for a team that is trying to end a losing streak!