Sports Magazine

Black n' Gold Blitz : Penguins Resiliency Gives the Look of a Contender

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
Just the other day I was having a dialog with one of my followers on Twitter (Follow me @BnGBlitz) about this 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins team and the teams that have been put on the ice since the team won the Cup in 2009. I must say, this 2013 team has a different feel to it. Its hard for me to put it into words, but it certainly is different. Think back to those teams since the '09 Stanley Cup Championship. Remember how they were so fragile from a mental standpoint? Just giving up a goal or two would sink the team. They would immediately get out of their game and start their frantic up and down pace looking to make every play be "the play" that will make or break the game. They were the team that got baited into the smallest of penalties. Retaliation was common place and it lead to the Penguins being on the Penalty Kill more than they should be in regular circumstances. Remember how even a 3 goal lead wasn't safe? Teams would consistently rally back and win games when the Penguins could have easily skated off with 2 points.
This team is different in every aspect that I listed above (at least so far in this young season). Those teams that were so fragile mentally have been replaced by a group that doesn't stray from the game plan. Even if it means they are down by a few goals, they stick to their game plan and you see them slowly start to climb back into games. The Penguins have come from behind in 3 of their last 4 games to win in regulation. Some might say that is a sign of a team that doesn't know how to get off to a fast start, but I see it as a team that never blinks and is able to come from matter the deficit. Although this team does take some really stupid penalties, those penalties are rarely retaliatory. Just look at the most recent 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins. The Penguins were headed to the Power Play when Lucic decides to give James Neal a stiff jab. Did Neal retaliate? Sure he threw a left that connected, but didn't let it get to point where penalties were being served and one of Pittsburgh's best Power Play hockey players was going to be OFF the ice. The most impressive thing these Penguins have shown is their ability to hold a lead. 3 of the last 4 wins have been one goal victories where the Penguins have secured a one goal lead in the 3rd period and have "iced" the game away. Solid defense and a focus on protecting the puck is a refreshing sign of good things to come.
What would those "good things" be? Well, if you ask me...all of these changes are a sign of a team that is a contender. Not just a playoff contender, but a Stanley Cup contender. People will say that the defense can easily slip back into it's early season form, and the Penguins offense won't be able to generate those chances when teams deploy the tight checking "playoff defense". I see the fact that the Penguins have beaten one of the best defensive teams in the NHL (Boston Bruins) twice in the last 10 days a sign that they can score on any team in the NHL...not just the Eastern Conference. With this 10 game winning streak, the Penguins are the first team in NHL History to put together a 10 game winning streak 3 seasons in a row. That speaks volumes about the team and organization, but this team that is on a hot streak is by far the best since that 2009 team hoisted the Stanley Cup. The follower on Twitter was very hesitant to "buy in" to this 2013 team as a legitimate contender...he kept thinking about last year's playoff debacle. Trust me, if you are a true fan its hard not to think back to last year's playoffs, but as I said earlier...this team is different. The proof is in the pudding, but no one will truly know what this team is made of until the playoffs actually arrive. If you ask me, put your money on the Penguins to be a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup.

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