Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Fire Still Burns on Occasion for Still-Capable Penguins

Wins over the Flyers and Blue Jackets might signal a turning point in what's been a mediocre stretch of hockey for a team from which much more is expected.



Embed from Getty Images

The last game the Penguins played reminded everyone they’ve still got it.

The next couple ought to be revealing in terms of how badly they still want it.

The NHL’s two-time defending-Stanley Cup champions took the ice Tuesday night in Philadelphia having lost seven of their last 10 games and having won just 19 of their first 40.

The Pens were also three points behind the Islanders in the race for the second and final wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and just one point ahead of the Flyers in the race to stay out of last place in the Metropolitan Division.

It was at best an unbecoming reflection and at worst an uncomfortably inept first half of the regular season for the Pens.

That being the case, they didn't desperately need to make a statement in Philly as much as they did need to establish that they still have a pulse.

They ended up doing both.

Their 5-1 victory over the Flyers was as complete as it was convincing.

It checked all the Mike Sullivan boxes in terms of how the Penguins are supposed to play the game, including one they’d especially neglected while periodically snoozing through the first 40 games to the tune of 19-18-3.

The Penguins went to the dirty areas against the Flyers. They got their nose over the puck, they played on the right side of the puck and as a result they were a difficult team to play against, with and without the puck.

And this time, their night’s work included an appropriate dose of “push back.”

That’s what Sullivan longs to see from his team as a counter when momentum is threatening to slip away.

The Penguins’ standing order in such situations is to take it back.

They did so this time by pushing back to score three goals in a span of 2:57 after the Flyers had wiped out the Penguins’ 1-0, second-period lead.

So much for Philadelphia’s momentum.

The rest pretty much fell into place after that, as it had for the most part over the course of the previous two seasons.

“Push back” is a beautiful thing.

That’s something the Penguins had dusted off when their stars had been willing to muck it up when necessary –– Evgeni  Malkin even dropped the gloves –– in what eventually became a 3-2, shootout victory on Dec. 21 against Columbus.

And that’s something the Pens had conjured up in abundance while in the process of cutting into 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2 deficits on the way to what eventually became a 5-4 shootout victory on Dec. 27 over Columbus.

The Blue Jackets have become quite a rival in recent seasons.

The Flyers have been a traditional rival, and a bitter one in the Sidney Crosby era.

Anyone else sensing a trend?

The need to pick it up a notch just for sanity’s sake,  and the chance to stick it to teams the Penguins love sticking it to, conspired nicely in all three instances to highlight what has otherwise been a mediocre stretch of hockey for a team from which much more is expected.

Which means that the 2017-18 Penguins might have finally seen the light.

They emerged from their Broad Street beating of Philly trailing the Islanders by one point and the Hurricanes by one point for that aforementioned second wild card position in the East.

And they have games coming up against the Hurricanes on Thursday night, at the Islanders on Friday night and against the Bruins on Sunday night.

If they can find a way to treat the Hurricanes, Islanders and Bruins like they do the Blue Jackets and Flyers, the Penguins might finally be onto something.

The alternative is to remain mostly uninspired most nights until a legitimate sense of desperation takes hold –– at which point it may or may not be too late to actually do something about it.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

The director of the forthcoming Mr. Rogers documentary sits down with the longtime Mr. McFeely and Pittsburgh Magazine.

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Chess enthusiast Ashley Lynn Priore hopes to enrich the Steel City’s involvement in one of the most classic and challenging of board games.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in June

We're obsessed with Greekfreez vegan frozen treats, taking a first look at the new menu at Independent Brewing Company and traveling to The Tavern on the Square. Plus, we talk to Poulet Bleu pastry chef James D. Wroblewski II.

Working in a Steel Mill Turns Fantastical in 'The Glass Lung'

Pittsburgher Anjali Sachdeva’s first book blends the normal with fantasy in nine short stories.

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.

Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in June

PM Nightlife Editor Sean Collier explores the popularity of Coughlin's Law on Mt. Washington and the future of Jump Cut Theater.

Pittsburgh's Can't Miss Concerts in June

The Pittsburgh music calendar is packed this month. Check out some of our suggestions for the best ways to spend those steamy summer nights.

June: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Undercover: What We're Reading in June

Reviews of Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance by Mark Whitaker and Abandoned Pittsburgh: Steel and Shadows by Chuck Beard

Perspectives: How Cold Is Too Cold for Spiders to Live?

A former Marine and Pittsburgh firefighter comes face-to-face with his biggest fear.

Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Faces Centennial Challenges

This year marks a milestone anniversary — and questions regarding the emerging digital economy — for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

CMU Launches America’s First Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Starting this fall, undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon will have the option to earn a degree in one of the world’s fastest growing fields.

Hog Wild at Fallen Aspen Farm

Owners Jake Kristophel and Desiree Sirois are committed to compassionate animal husbandry at Fallen Aspen Farm.

This is Where ‘Pittsburgh's Paul Bunyan’ Would Have Lived

The living emblem of Pittsburgh steelwork, immortalized in a Braddock statue, has been reborn with a titular space in Bloomfield.