Just recently, I was in attendance for the Penguins’ dominant 6-2 against the NHL-leading Capitals. Something about the atmosphere of that game was just absolutely incredible. The fans were into the game. They started chants without being prompted, including “HOLTBY” during the third period. And oh boy was that place BUMPIN.
It almost felt like the atmosphere that the good ol’ Mellon Arena had.
Josh Yohe of DK on Pittsburgh Sports noted that after this game, he felt it was the louded he has heard that arena since it was erected. Incredibly, it did not take long for the fans to change his mind.
Just 2 night ago, the Penguins fell behind to the Buffalo Sabres 3-0 early in the game. It looked like it was going to be another loss against another subpar game. However, the Penguins responded in the 2nd period, rallying to score 4 goals, 2 shorthanded on the SAME Buffalo power play, and ended up winning the goal in overtime.
Yohe reported after the game that although he had nothing against the Washington crowd, he said that after the Penguins scored their 4th goal, the crowd was even louder than before.
Our Penguins are back. They have brought themselves from not being able to score goals early in the season to now being 4th in the NHL in goals for. They have electricity again. They have speed. They are playing like the Penguins are SUPPOSED to play.
Credit GMJR for upgrading the Penguins’ speed. He traded Perron for the speedy Carl Hagelin. He traded Scuderi who looked like he was skating in mud for Trevor Daley who has been an absolute perfect fit in the Penguins system, and I still don’t know how he pulled that trade off. Even the guys that started in Wilkes-Barre including Rust, Kuhnhackl, Wilson, Sheary, etc, have brought energy and speed to the lineup.
Credit Mike Sullivan. He really has been getting to these players, and they are clearly buying into his system. These players believe in what they are doing, and it has been clearly reflective in their play. They’re having fun, and the fans are clearly feeling it as well.
Something just feels different about these playoffs than the past few years. I can’t help but think about 2009: coaching change mid-season, getting hot at the right time…its all in the cards.
The Penguins went 14-2-3 starting March 1st in 2009 when they went to win the Cup. They got hot at the right time, and they rode their momentum right into the playoffs. They are currently 12-4 since March 1st this season, and playing undoubtedly their best hockey of the season.
Heck, the Penguins have been rolling without Evgeni Malkin! They are now 9-1 in their last 10 games without Malkin in the lineup. And no, that is not a typo. 9-1. More impressively, the Penguins have scored 5 or more goals 4 times in 10 games without Geno. So, how in the world have the Penguins been able to put up a record like that without their second best player?
They’ve been getting contributions from everyone. Cullen has stepped up. Bonino has come out of nowhere. Kessel looks like the player many people believed he would be when he was first acquired, and is also developing tremendous chemistry Carl Hagelin. Murray has been great when called upon, and despite his rough start in Buffalo, he made the big saves when he needed to. Letang looks like a legitimate Norris candidate, and Crosby is looking more and more likely to make a strong case to win the Hart Trophy.
The Penguins have been lacking role players for the last few years. If a team wants to make a deep playoff run, they need not only their star players to step up, but they need role players to come through as well. If you recall, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup due to 2 goals from Max Talbot, who was a 3rd/4th line guy.
This team is winning hockey games, and they’re prepped to win plenty more come mid-April. It’s almost playoff hockey time in Pittsburgh…thank goodness our Penguins are back.