March of the Penguins

By: Joe Guzy

Brandon Sutter and his teammates celebrate a well-timed shorthanded goal against the Washington Capitals. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Brandon Sutter and his teammates celebrate a well-timed shorthanded goal against the Washington Capitals. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

You know the playoffs are creeping up when writers all around Pittsburgh break out one of the most cliche titles of all time.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have set themselves up for a good month. Under a microscope, the Penguins managed to beat a Western Conference powerhouse in the St. Louis Blues. They were able to nearly shut out a pesky Wild Card team in the Florida Panthers. Most importantly, they avoided a season series sweep by the Washington Capitals.

They did almost everything right in those games. They played simple. They went hard to the net. They kept their composure. Had there been a few more power-play goals there would be even less question about the current state of this team.

Before March could even begin, General Manager Jim Rutherford managed to send Zach Sill to the moon and acquire Daniel Winnik to add some more forward depth to the roster. The Penguins you’re looking at right now are probably (pending Rutherford ruining this entire sentence) the Penguins you will be looking at the first time they take the ice for the playoffs.

So, what’s next?

Let’s take a look at the remaining schedule:

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 12.35.19 PM

 

The Penguins will be facing eight different Western Conference teams for 10 of the 21 games they have left. Of those eight teams, five are currently out of playoff contention. However, the Wild Card race in the west is showing no sign of slowing down. The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks will definitely be fighting for every point they can get.

While no opponent should ever be taken lightly, the Penguins certainly do have a chance to rack up some points here and keep themselves in a good position in the standings. They seem to have the upper hand when it comes to scheduling compared to the rest of the Metropolitan Division. March can definitely put the Penguins in a good spot for two games against the Philadelphia Flyers and one final showdown with the New York Islanders before the playoffs.

The catch to what seems to be a luxurious schedule are four back to back situations: Anaheim and Los Angeles, Boston and Detroit, Arizona and San Jose, and a Metropolitan weekend with Philadelphia and Columbus. Luckily, two of those situations are at home while the other two don’t involve too much travel. Minus Arizona and Columbus, all of the teams on that list are in, or have a chance to make the playoffs. The Penguins should get as much fine tuning done as they can quickly so these situations don’t catch them off guard.

All of the pieces are in place, it’s just a matter of getting them to fit. We’ve seen this team roll through March and collapse in April. Consistency should be the focus here with all eyes focused on playing exactly how they want to play in the playoffs.

Mike Johnston said from day one that the regular season is for preparing this team for the playoffs. If that holds true, there won’t be a need to hit a switch to activate the “post-season Penguins.”

They’ll simply be the Pittsburgh Penguins.