TSN's Darren Dreger Wonders If Penguins Have That 'Next Level'

Can they find their groove and ride it?

The Fan Morning Show
April 03, 2019 - 9:55 am
Phil Kessel vs. Detroit

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan)- The Penguins had a chance to clinch their 13th straight playoff appearance, the most impressive streak in professional sports right now outside of the San Antonio Spurs run of 22 consecutive years in the postseason.

Instead though, the Penguins fell 4-1 to the Detroit Red Wings and leave the door open for that streak to end. There are very few that actually believe the Pens will be left on the outside and TSN Hockey insider Darren Dreger is no different.

But when Dreger joined The Fan Morning Show Wednesday, he shared the concern he has for this team and their playoff capabilities.  

"I can appreciate why the fan base could be on edge a little bit, it's been that type of year hasn't it? Emotionally up and down. Typically the Penguins deal with injuries and they've had to do that again this year but I think everyone has expected them to find their groove and then just ride it, run with it if you will," said Dreger. "They haven't quite done that yet. Pittsburgh has two more games, I don't question where their positioning is when I look at the standings and the fact that they're geared up for the postseason. What I wonder though is if they do have that next level. The experience of the Penguins tell me they do, but they're going to have to prove that." 

Speed kills in today's NHL and despite key injuries to Malkin, Letang and Dumoulin, the Red Wings may have followed a blueprint of how to beat the Penguins in the postseason. 

Related: Penguins Fail To Clinch Playoff Spot In 4-1 Loss To Red Wings

"If you're a speed-based team, it doesn't matter if you're the Penguins or you're playing the Tampa Bay Lightning. If you run the neutral zone, the offensive zone with speed, the defensive structure of any team has no choice but to back off and we saw that last night in the Pittsburgh-Detroit game. I would suspect that that's the type of strategy that whoever Pittsburgh plays in round one is going to use but again, you put Kris Letang back into the lineup, you put Evgeni Malkin back into the lineup, you've got Sid, you've got Kessel, you've got a great year from Jake Guentzel go down the list. the transition game that the D in Pittsburgh can play, if the Penguins have the puck most of the game it's real tough to battle against that. Pittsburgh has its own strategy I'm sure when healthy."

If the standings hold, the Penguins would avoid the high-flying Lightning and pesky Capitals to find the New York Islanders in the first round. Despite avoiding the top two teams early, Dreger describes how dangerous a match-up the Isles could be for the Pens.

"I'll tell ya what, I've watched enough Islander games...there is no chance that if Pittsburgh matches up against New York that they're going to take that club lightly because if they do, that will be a horrendous mistake," said Dreger. "Their goaltending can be and has been top notch, defensively they've drifted away over the last half dozen games or so but, I mean, there was a complete metamorphosis of the New York Islanders under the guidance of Barry Trotz over the regular season which is why they're such a threat. So, the Islanders aren't going to be a pushover either."                       

You can listen to the entire interview with TSN Hockey insider Darren Dreger on The Fan Morning Show below. 

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