The Pittsburgh Penguins have been a tough team to figure out this season.
They have gone through stretches where they have played terrific hockey. They have gone through other stretches where they have been awful.
There has not been a middle ground for this hockey club this season. The only thing that has been consistent this season is their inconsistency.
Right now, the Penguins are in the middle of another great stretch of hockey. The team is 7-1-1 in their last eight games, and they look like a team primed to get into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 16th consecutive season.
Thanks to their most recent run, the Penguins currently (Monday, March 13) hold the first wild-card spot and are 34-22-10 on the season with 78 points. The team is also just six points behind the New York Rangers, who they play twice this week at Madison Square Garden, for third place in the Metropolitan Division.
As always, the team is being led by their captain Sidney Crosby. Crosby, 35, currently leads the team in goals (29), assists (51), points (80), game-winning goals (eight), and shots (201).
Night in and night out, Crosby is his team’s best player. He plays in all situations, creates a lot of offense, wins key faceoffs, and goes above and beyond for his hockey club.
The team has also recently gotten strong play out of forward Jason Zucker. Zucker, 31, has five goals in his last four games and now has 24 goals and 18 assists for 42 points this season.
Of course, the Penguins are also getting consistent offense from the likes of Evgeni Malkin (70 points), Jake Guentzel (58 points), Rickard Rakell (46 Points), and Bryan Rust (37 points). When these guys are healthy, they and the likes of Crosby and Zucker provide the Penguins with six solid forwards who can produce on a consistent basis.
Defenseman Kris Letang has also been a key contributor to this hockey club over the past several games. He scored a big overtime goal on Sunday evening to beat the Rangers by a score of 3-2, and he now has 31 points in 48 games.
Letang is a warrior for his hockey club. He can create offense, block shots, make great first passes out of the defensive zone, break up plays with his stick, and log a lot of minutes, something he will need to do come April, assuming the team gets into the playoffs.
Head coach Mike Sullivan also deserves credit for his team’s fine play. Sullivan never gives up on his hockey club and always knows which buttons to press to get the best out of his players, something that has helped him win 401 games in the NHL.
It will be interesting to see what the Penguins can accomplish this week with games against the Montreal Canadiens (Tuesday, March 14) and New York Rangers (Thursday, March 16, and Saturday, March 18). If the Penguins can find a way to pick up six points, the standings will turn in their favor in a big way and help relieve some of the pressure they are facing from the New York Islanders (76 points) and Florida Panthers (73 points).
Knowing how experienced both the Penguins and their head coach are, one should expect the Penguins to be at their very best moving forward.