If The Pens Stay Healthy, Lord Stanley Is All But Moved Back Into Pittsburgh For Another Year. #Pens @pghpenguins


Thursday night was the game all of Pittsburgh and pretty much every hockey fan on the planet, were waiting for – the return of Sidney Crosby.  At Madison Square Garden against the Rangers, the game couldn’t have turned out to be much more of a high stakes situation.  The Rangers lead the Eastern Conference in points, leaving the Pens trailing 6 behind, in a must-win situation if they plan to catch the Rangers in the points race.  In addition to the Eastern Conference standings, looking for their 10th win in a row and 3 wins in a row against the Rangers, the Pens traveled to New York City with a lot on the line.  Accompanying Crosby back to the lineup was all-star defenseman, Kris Letang.  For the first time in what seems to be an eternity, the Penguins are completely healthy with the exception of backup net minder, Brent Johnson.

Even though Crosby was the evening’s much awaited spectacle, much of the spotlight ended up on Matt Cooke with 2 goals and Kris Letang with a plus-5 rating.  You can never leave out Marc Andre Fleury and his hot glove hand, wracking up 29 saves on the game.  Crosby was far from left with empty pockets, ending up with an assist and a plus-3 rating on the ice.  Even though, at times, the Pens looked like there were too many cooks in a kitchen with all the star power the team possesses, they were able to commandingly trump the Rangers with a final score of 5-2.  Accompanying Matt Cooke on the scoreboard were wingers, Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, along with center and assistant captain, Evgeni Malkin.  A huge win on a huge stage.

Health has been a massive issue and concern for the Penguins for the better part of two seasons.  With Sidney Crosby out of the lineup, due to what turned out to be a major concussion coupled with spinal fractures, the Pens haven’t had a healthy roster for the equivalent of over a full regular season.  If the Pens can keep themselves healthy and off of the injured list, the road to the Stanley Cup doesn’t seem so treacherous.  Possessing a team with the two best players on the planet, multiple all-star caliber players, a number of players knocking on the door for career highs in goals, and one of the best goal keepers in the league today, the Pens have little to fear.  It goes without saying that the Penguins’ depth extends far beyond their NHL roster, with the multitude of AHL players they have brought up to contribute to this season’s success.

When other teams look to matchup against the Penguins, they are essentially matching up against 3 first lines and a talented 4th line of hybrid grinders/fighters/scorers.  Evgeni Malkin and the rest of his red hot first line, used to be the main shutdown focus.  Now Crosby is back on the ice with his unbelievable ability to be a goal scorer and a playmaker, who can make any player around him substantially raise the level of their game.  The Jordan Staal line has been anything but ineffective as well.  Every coach building a strategy against a lineup like this, would see it as an absolute nightmare to figure out.  You have to imagine them finally coming to a decision, walking away from the drawing board and knowing the game plan they’re about to announce hangs on a hope and a prayer… and a flimsy one at that.

The Pens are on the road to face the New Jersey Devils this afternoon, and the stakes are high once again.  In recent history, the Devils have had a bead on the Pittsburgh Penguins and repeatedly found ways to shut down their goal scoring ability.  Now, having to face a fully healthy, momentum riding, firing on all cylinders, Penguins squad, maybe the game wont look so typical to the Devils, this afternoon.  Regardless, the Pens need to create some offense if they want to turn this 10 game win streak into an 11 game win streak.  With a seemingly endless amount of firepower that the Penguins possess, it’s difficult to believe the Pens will find much trouble making that happen.

The Pittsburgh Penguins play away against the NewJersey Devils today at 1:00 PM Eastern. Tune into the game and live chat with me on facebook and twitter:

Pitts Burgh-Jedi