Playoff Push? More on the Line Shakeups, Sprong, Sid…..

Line shakeups and the integration of new talent has recently fueled the Penguins to win in a much more convincing manner. Captain Sidney Crosby, partnered with a new winger on the top line, has created a new sense of excitement among fans and seemingly among the team as well. Goals on top of goals have been scored by that new player from the Wilkes-Barre baby Pens.

All of this seems to set up a familiar storyline for the Penguins, as we have seen this is each of the previous two years, the back-to-back Stanley Cup years. In 2016, it was Connor Sheary. Last year, Jake Guentzel. Now, Dominik Simon. Each of these players are skilled, to no doubt. However, it is true that the Penguins seem to thrive on new blood and need a shakeup that invigorates them about this time each year when the playoff push and positioning intensifies. Especially this year, a shakeup, or at least a new face in the lineup is likely essential to the long term success of this team. Not that they are completely unmotivated, but it is evident that many of the players besides Phil Kessel, who has been scoring legend for this team this season, appear disinterested and tired – but we should expect them to be tired. After all, they’ve won the Stanley Cup twice in a row and have played in three playoff series in recent memory that have gone to Game 7.

On the matter of Daniel Sprong, he finally had his long-awaited NHL debut. It was apparent that he is skilled and meshed relatively well with the team given his extraordinary talent and puck sense. This being considered, it was clear that this veteran-clad Penguins team needed fresh players, but likely not such a highly-touted young star still in the making. The popular belief seems to be that Sprong should still be in the lineup, and perhaps he should a little while later. However, whatever formula the Penguins have now, should be one that the team sticks with at least until the spark fades away.

In terms of the goalie situation, it is clear that we have quite a bit of young talent on the horizon. Casey DeSmith has led the team to wins in the past 2 games, which have largely been team wins with all players stepping up, including the goaltender. Matt Murray, our starter, will be back on his own accord. We give our utmost support and offer condolences to his family. His father raised a great goalie. But during this stretch, we have a young goalie to help us out. He can hold the fort.

It has been apparent the last couple of weeks that this Penguins team is looking more cohesive and more like the ones we have known for the past two years. There is no denying that the current team is working, and is heating up at just the right time. In terms of our stars, Crosby and Malkin both looked lost towards the beginning of the season given their big names and integral roles in both of our wins. However, they seem to have regained their signature touches and seem to be having fun as they play. Geno has gone on a fairly consistent scoring run, while Crosby recently passed Jaromir Jagr to take second place on the Pens all-time points list. His own scoring, although not necessarily at last year’s level in terms of goals scored himself, has improved as well. Captain Canada is back, and just in the nick of time.

Now sitting at 3rd in the Metropolitan, with our division still living up to its “most competitive division” nickname, the Penguins are in control of their playoff destiny. They are finally out of the shaky wild card spots, and if they continue to play at the level that they have shown they are capable of sustaining especially in recent games, we may as well look forward to a chance to three-peat. Although winning three Cups in a row is a difficult feat that has not been done in decades, to say the least, the Penguins are the one team you don’t want to play in the playoffs. That is something that most teams will agree with.