Is it safe to say the Penguins are among the hottest teams in the league? If not, what gives? After ending a five game road trip with five wins, the Penguins return home to a rematch against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, March 10th. This game will be yet another test for a team who decided to do it the hard way this season.
Reviving a Reveled Rivalry
First of all, to the Capital fans who felt it necessary to bring pacifiers to the game in celebration of Crosby and who also felt it a good idea to chant Fleuryâ€™s name throughout, here is a message that any Flyers fan could have told you: That stuff backfires every time. For whatever reason, whenever a fanbase gets negatively involved with this group of Penguins players, they elevate their level of play. The best thing to do is ignore them into passive tendencies. Having said all of that, I think everyone hopes to see the Penguins play the Flyers and Caps in the playoffs this spring – especially the Caps. An old time rivalry, the Penguins and Caps met in the playoffs many, many times during the 90s and the Pens always won. Both are different teams now, with names like Adam Oates and Petr Bondra being replaced with Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom. Likewise Lemieux, Jagr, Francis replaced with Crosby, Malkin, Staal. Still, the rivalry seems alive and well.
By the Numbers:
- Since the acquisition of Chris Kunitz the Penguins are 5-0
- Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is 8-1-1 in his last 10 starts. Over the last five games his GAA is 1.94 and his save percentage .940.
- They are 7-2-1 since the return of Sergei Gonchar.
- 8-1-1 since Dan Bylsma took over behind the bench.
- The Penguins 35 wins is the 10th most in the league right now.
- Their 201 goals are good for 9th in the league.
While all good, these numbers are still overwhelmingly bad (albeit gradually improving):
- 16.3% power play, 8th worst in the league.
- 80.1% penalty kill, 12th worst in the league.
- 27.8 shots-per-game, third worst in the league.
- 30.9 average shots allowed, 10th most in the league.
- 49.5% in the faceoff circle, 19th in the league.
Improved Appearance but Same Ugly Soul
Since Goncharâ€™s return, the complexion has changed dramatically. Nonetheless, the man-advantage has gone just 7 for 42 which is 17% which is only slightly better than the 16% they were averaging before his return. There seems to be hope however. At times, the powerplay is dominant. Other times however, it is what Michel Therrien would call, â€œSoffâ€
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Written by Ian Altenbaugh