Penguins Getting ‘Second Wind’ as Playoffs Approach

After seven points in four road games, Pens return home

Josh Rowntree
March 28, 2019 - 2:21 pm
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan instructs team at practice in 2019

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

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PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - The Penguins are playing their best hockey. And it’s coming at the perfect time. 

With five games remaining, including four at home, Pittsburgh is primed for a strong finish heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

But, for the majority of the year, making the postseason looked tumultuous, at best. Now though, the Penguins sit just three points out of first place in the Metropolitan division, having picked up seven points on a four-game road trip.

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“Hopefully it builds (confidence),” Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said. “But it’s not anything we can admire. We’ve got to continue to continue to play good hockey and we’ve got to take that mentality to here, at home.”

Pittsburgh welcomes Nashville Friday night in a rematch of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. A week ago, the Penguins beat the Predators, 2-1, in a shootout. It’s a win that kickstarted a three-game winning streak.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs throughout the year,” said winger Jake Guentzel, who has nine of his 38 goals in March. “For us to be going the way we’re going right now, playing good hockey with four lines scoring, along with the (defense), I think it’s been the key for us winning games lately.”

It may speak to the strength of this team that, even not playing near their best for 60-65 games, they were able to stay afloat until they made a run at the division.

“I know art the start of the year, they were streaky,” said winger Jared McCann, who has scored eleven goals since being acquired in the Derick Brassard trade. “But I feel that now that me and (Nick Bjugstad) have gotten here, we’ve kind of meshed with the team a little bit more and we’ve brought a level of energy to the team that I feel like really helps them.”

While it may appear that the Penguins have flipped a switch of late, some thing that this is just the natural result of a talented team. 

“I don’t know, I mean, it’s always progressing,” goalie Matt Murray said. “Every day you’re becoming more and more of team. Just because we’re getting results recently, it doesn’t totally give you all of the facts.”

Regardless of if the Penguins have hit another level or built to their current state, the fact remains that a team that has won two of the last three Stanley Cups is again poised to make a run. 

“You kind of get your second wind here,” forward Matt Cullen said. “You get a little bit excited about what hopefully lies ahead. These are huge games and they all have that playoff feel, so it’s a lot of fun to play in. As players, this is what it’s all about, this is why you play.”

Notes

Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang remained out of practice Thursday. Sullivan said that they are making “significant progress.” Malkin skated before Thursday’s practice with injured defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, while Letang did not skate. Winger Zach Aston-Reese did not skate either, but is “trending in the right direction,” according to Sullivan. Defenseman Olli Maatta again practiced and was classified as a game-time decision for Friday night.

Hear all of what Penguins captain Sidney Crosby had to say below. 

 

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