For the eleventh straight season, the Penguins will participate in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Despite their being ten games left in the season, you can kind of get the feel for why the Penguins will or won’t repeat as Stanley Cup champions this season.
Just as a “food for thought” article, I’ll give you three reasons for each case. Let’s roll.
3 Reasons The Penguins Will Repeat
- Sidney Crosby is playing like Sidney Crosby. When you are blessed with the league’s best player, you’re expected to make the playoffs every season. The Penguins have done that for 11 straight now in large part due to Sidney Crosby. When the Penguins are playing well, it usually means Crosby is, too. He’s the clear favorite to win the Hart Trophy, especially if he leads the league in points and helps his team jump the Capitals atop the Metropolitan Division. If Crosby is playing at this level as we continue toward the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine that anyone can touch them.
- Their head coach isn’t too shabby himself. We all know this. Mike Sullivan is an absolute genius at what he does. Just compare the production of his star players from Mike Johnston’s tenure to Mike Sullivan. They’re playing out of their minds and it’s all about how he employs them. He’s taken afterthoughts in Wilkes-Baree/Scranton who would never get considered under the old regime and turned them into key pieces for last year’s run and into this season.
- They’ve got two really good goalies. Don’t discredit this fact. The Penguins will have to choose one goalie to roll with heading into April’s first round and stick with him. No rotating after losses. Pick and roll. But I will say this: Assuming Matt Murray is given the crease for the Penguins first round series against whomever they may see, the Penguins can feel confident knowing that if Murray would falter, they can turn to Marc-Andre Fleury. And if that change happens, they won’t hesitate to stick with Fleury. It won’t be like it was early in the season. But regardless, they can win with both goalies.
3 Reasons The Penguins Won’t Repeat
- Injuries, injuries, injuries. It looks as though the Penguins will be getting most of their key pieces back right around playoff time. But the Penguins are still the Penguins. They still lose key pieces as terrible times due to injury (see Trevor Daley ECF injury last season). And assuming these players come back, can they gel and provide just as much chemistry as the Penguins seem to have without them. The Penguins are 21-7-3 without Kris Letang this season. They have proven they are getting good defense right now. Hopefully adding him will only improve things. But injuries aren’t something the Penguins need.
- The Metropolitan Division just isn’t fair at all. I mean, seriously? Three of the four teams with 100 points reside in this division. The other is the Blackhawks in the other conference. It’s been a LONG time since three teams in one division were playing so well that they each have 100+ points with more than 10 games remaining. It will be interesting to see how the playoffs shape up for these three. The Penguins could very well see one of Washington, Columbus or the New York Rangers in round one and be sent home way too early because of it.
- They don’t have three really scary lines anymore. Let’s be real here. The Penguins don’t have that “HBK” line to fall back on this season. They does have the “Sid and the Kids” line if Jake Guentzel returns before playoff time. Even if he does, that’s still the Penguins first line. They have two solidified, good lines. With injuries and streaky play from the Pens’ bottom six forwards throughout the year, they don’t have that third line that most playoff team’s couldn’t defend against. The Capitals, on paper of course, are scarier. Truthfully, so are the Penguins. But again, yes the Penguins have four solid lines. But that third line just isn’t as strong as it was last year. That’s a huge reason they won and it’s a huge reason why they may not repeat.