Trailing the New Jersey Devils 3-1 in the second period in front of their home crowd on Tuesday night seemed to be the wakeup call the Penguins were desperately searching for as they continue to progress through the early stages of the 2014-15 season.
Since then, the team has scored 15 goals over their last three games, Fleury has posted two consecutive shutouts, the team has fought off 11 more penalty kills, and their power play has converted on 44% of their chances. In addition, the defense has become more effective in safely exiting the defensive zone and the team has been near perfect in their passing abilities.
This formula has propelled the Penguins from fifth to first place in the Metropolitan Division, where they are ahead of the Devils by one point.
The offense seems to not be skipping a beat as they have outscored their opponents 19-3 in during this four game winning streak. Though the main contributors to this flurry of scoring are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, and Patric Hornqvist, the entire team has been putting forward their best efforts which have caused almost every single player on the roster to be positive in the plus/ minus category. This solid offensive presence has raised their average up to 4.10 goals per game. They are currently the only team to have an average above four. In fact, the next closet team is the Tampa Bay Rays who average 3.50 goals per game.
Speaking of Flurry, Marc-Andre Fleury has been perfect in terms of not allowing a goal to be scored in three of his last four starts. This strong performance has improved his record to 7-2, dropped his goals allowed per game to 1.89 and has increased his save percentage to .931. Lest fans not forget that he is currently holding a shutout that has spanned over 2:33:46; which was when he allowed Tuomo Ruutu to score a goal during the game against the Devils.
If Fleury wasn’t enough of a challenge for opposing teams, the Penguins defense has cleaned up their sloppy passing and poor exit strategies. This has made it near impossible for their opponents to get any type of strategy set up in the Penguins defensive zone. This dominance has heavily tilted the ice in favor of the Penguins which has kept their opponents second guessing themselves and playing on their heels.
The icing on this sweet cake of victory has to be the Penguins impeccable special teams performance. They have now fought off 26 straight penalties which has sky-rocketed their penalty kill up to 85.4%. This brick wall performance is a result of Fleury’s strong net presence and the efficient defensive tactics which are led by defensemen Paul Martin and Kris Letang.
On the other side of the special team’s coin, the power play has been basically unstoppable. During this four game winning streak the team has converted on 47.6% of their chances. This unreal performance has them leading the league by a vast margin. To put this into perspective, the Washington Capitals are second in the league on the power play with a conversion rate of 29%, while the Penguins conversion rate is 41.9%.
What all of this adds up to is that the Penguins have finally found the right lines, strategies, and mentality needed to string together consistently solid performances. Additionally, this shows that the acquisitions that Jim Rutherford made during the offseason are paying off and that Mike Johnston’s tactics are being understood and properly implemented by the players.
The bottom line is this: the Pittsburgh Penguins are winning and show no signs of slowing down any time soon!