Pens Pointers #9

Anthony DeSimone

From one cold place to another; that’s the story of the Pittsburgh Penguins as they are in the middle of a three-game road trip across Western Canada.

The Penguins were able to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 2-0 Thursday night to start off their Canadian road trip, which features playing three games in four days. Next in line for the Penguins will be the Calgary Flames tonight and then the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

The victory against the Oilers on Thursday night showed some good signs for the team as they continue to battle for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Evegeni Malkin had returned to the ice and scored a goal, Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his seventh shutout for this season (tying him with Tom Barrasso for most shutouts in a single season as a Penguin goalie), and David Perron  seems to  improve more and more each time he steps on the ice as a member of the Penguins.

Perron has scored seven goals in only 13 games as a Penguin. This is an impressive stat compared to his five goals during 38 games with the Oilers this season. This strong performance will add to the challenge that opponents face when they play the Penguins because now they will have to watch Sidney Crosby, Malkin and Perron when they are on the ice.

Another positive thing that I noticed in the game against the Oilers was the fact that the Penguins were able to run four lines consistently in the game. This is good because it meant short shifts for players. Short shifts are good because it allows players to be less fatigued  in the latter stages of a game.

Part of the reason that the Pens could run four lines was because they have a majority of their main players back on the ice. Additionally, the four lines are beginning to build some chemistry which is allowing each line to be a solid threat when they step onto the ice.

The question that will be answered this weekend will be, “How will the Penguins handle another set of back-to-back games?” So far this season they have not fared too well in back-to-back games. They have a record of 6-7-5, which in my opinion is not good enough. Those five overtime losses could be five points that the Penguins wished they had when it comes down to the push for the playoffs at the end of the season.

Speaking of playoff run, I am amazed that the Penguins are still in second place in the Metropolitan Division. The standings are as follows (as of 10:30 p.m. Thursday)

New York Islanders         67 Points

Pittsburgh Penguins       66 Points

New York Rangers           64 Points

Washington Capitals       64 Points


Yes, The Penguins have not been playing their best over this past month or so, but neither have the New York Islanders. This is a good thing because it has prevented the Islanders from pulling away in the division. However, since the Pens and Islanders have been struggling, the Rangers and Capitals have been able to close the gap and it is now a four-way race for first place in the division.

Hopefully, now that the Pens have some of their main players back on the ice, they will be able to string a few wins together and move to the top spot in the division.

The two teams that currently stand in their way of accomplishing this goal are the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks. Both of these teams are doing well in the Pacific Division. The Flames are in third place with 61 points (29-20-3) and the Canucks are in fourth place with 59 points (28-18-3).

Of the two teams, I feel that the Penguins will have a tougher time against the Flames because they are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and are on a three-game winning streak. However, the Flames do have a weak spot and that is there penalty kill, which is ranked 25th in the league at 77.9%. If the Penguins can draw some penalties and capitalize on their chances, they should be able to defeat the Flames.

As for the Canucks, they will not be an easy opponent either. They are a defensively strong team, which means the match up will be a low-scoring affair. Additionally, the Penguins will have to deal with the Canucks strong penalty kill unit which is ranked fourth in the league at 86.3%. However, the Canucks also have a soft spot and that is their inability to win games at home. So far, their record at home is 11-8-1, which ranks toward the bottom of the league.

With that said, if the Penguins can win all three games during this Canadian road trip, they would have a nice morality boost as the team navigates though the month of February.