In today’s NHL there is a certain amalgamation of skill and player types that, when orchestrated correctly within a team environment, can wreak havoc on the rest of the National Hockey League.
At first glance, it appears that a fully healthy Pittsburgh Penguins roster might feature that exact collection of bodies and player types.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Pittsburgh Penguins are taking the ice with their full compliment of players available.
The last time Pittsburgh could boast such potent lineup was in January 2011 in a rainy outdoor game.
A component to the success of the Penguins cup run in 2008-09 was the three center model. To the contrary, a biggest part of their failure last year in Tampa Bay was that three center model being reduced to a one center model.
Depth in the middle allows Dan Bylsma to make match-ups a headache for every coach he faces, even if that coach has a home-ice advantage.
We are all too familiar with the carnage that the Evgeni Malkin’s line has been bring on a nightly basis. While Sidney Crosby hasn’t been lighting the lamp with regularity, his keen vision and world-class dish ability have made his line of Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke a legitimate scoring threat.
Those two centers alone are enough to give opposing coaches nightmares, throw in the fact that the Penguins can then roll out Jordan Staal to stifle the top line opposition of the other team, and figuring out a way to get the match-up you want against the Penguins becomes a lot more difficult.
When the Penguins are missing the big guns in the lineup, they can still win based on depth alone. But for how long? And against who, specifically?
Hockey is a game of attrition. Not only is the 82 game season one of the hardest grinds in pro sports, the playoffs take that intensity to the next level. A team that’s weak in the heart and soul department gets ousted quickly. Star power shines, systematic play and physicality come to the forefront of the game.
In the NFL, you only have to be better than the other team one time. It gives even the worst playoff contender the opportunity to shock the world and beat the heavy favorite just by being better for that 60 minute time frame.
In the NHL, that one win against a juggernaut means you have three more to go.
Doesn’t the road to beating the Penguins in the post-season seem a lot longer for some teams right now?
The Penguins are beating teams in a plethora of ways right now. When you look down the lineup, you see numbers that are a testament to what the Penguins can do. It’s not just about Crosby’s point-per-game pace right now, or Malkin’s Art Ross hunt, I’m talking more about the goal scoring of Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke. The star power is there, the depth is there, and you have a team that will enter into the playoffs in just a few weeks running on all cylinders with a goaltender that is leading the NHL in wins.
The NHL post-season is one of the hardest tests in all of pro sports. This article isn’t intended to drum up guarantees or claim a Stanley Cup championship before the playoffs even start, it’s about finally sitting back, taking a deep breath, and getting ready to watch a Pittsburgh Penguins team that finally has all the cogs operating at full capacity.
If we’ve learned anything over the course of the last year, it’s that nothing can be taken for granted.
And finally, after one year that seemed like thirty, the Pittsburgh Penguins finally have all the tools available to achieve the ultimate goal of every team in the NHL.
Based on the way things have gone the last 25 or so games, it’s going to be fun to watch.
And if you miss a second of it, shame on you for six weeks.