Pens Pointers #7

Anthony DeSimone

The Penguins will continue their battle for first place with the New York Islanders as the two teams face off tonight in New York.

The Islanders currently hold the top spot in the Metropolitan Division with 59 points (29-13-1), while the Penguins are right on their heels with 58 points (26-10-6). In addition to the race for first place, both teams have currently been in the win column. The Islanders are on a three game winning streak and have a record of (6-3-1) in their last ten games. Meanwhile, the Penguins have won two in a row, but have gone (4-4-2) in their last ten games.

One of the reasons that the Penguins have been struggling recently is due to their lack of goal scoring. Over the last nine games, the team has only scored a total of 20 goals, which breaks down to 2.22 goals per game. This is a lack of scoring, in my opinion, because the Pens are one of the few teams in the league who average scoring more than three goals per game.

However, the Penguins did win big this past Tuesday night after defeating the Minnesota Wild 7-2 at home. This strong performance is a good thing to see from the team. Although, this outburst of goal scoring raises the question, where has this offense been over the past nine games?

One of the reasons their goal scoring has fallen off, or been stagnant if you will, is because of all the injuries, line adjustments, and minor league players that have been inserted into the starting lineups each night. The combination of these things has caused the team to not be able to construct strong line chemistry between players, which leads to fewer points on the board at the end of the night.

Additionally, this recent lack of goal scoring is not being helped by the fact that the Penguins power play, which was unstoppable at the beginning of the season, has tapered off. Their power play is currently ranked 6th in the league (22.1%). This does not sound like a bad position. However, if Penguins fans recall, the team’s power play was converting at over 40% at the beginning of the season.

On the other hand, a big positive for the Penguins is that the team’s penalty kill has improved drastically since the start of the season. The team currently ranks 2nd in the league, only behind the Chicago Blackhawks in the penalty kill category. This strong performance while short-handed has allowed the Penguins to remain in hockey games, despite not scoring as many goals over their recent stretch of games.

The bottom line is this; the Penguins have fared pretty well considering how many injuries and setbacks that the team has faced in the first half of the season. If the team can avoid any more serious injuries and remain resilient as players returned from existing injuries, the Penguins will be set for a strong second half of the season and possibly a decent run toward winning the Stanley Cup.

As for their game against the Islanders, the Penguins will have their hands full keeping their eye on star players such as John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. Additionally, the Pens will have to find a way to get the puck behind Jaroslav Halak, who has been having a strong season in net so far. Halak has an impressive record of 23-8-0 with a .917 save percentage and only allows 2.22 goals per game.

This matchup will be a fast-paced, heavy hitting game as these two teams continue their battle for first place. Additionally, these two teams have had some bad blood toward one another over the past few years so expect some late hits, dirty gloves to the face, and of course some colorful language.

With that in mind, I suggest that Pens fans better buckle up for another riveting matchup between these two top caliber NHL teams.