Having watched the Penguins "transform" from a team that was likely to beat you 5-4 to one that's more likely to win by a score of 1-0...I find myself asking the question: Is This Team Playoff Ready?
Last year's team headed into the post season, never quite achieving that level of play that many people thought they needed to defend their Stanley Cup championship. Their regular season was one where we kept asking, "can they flip the switch
?" come playoff time.
Say what you will about the Canadiens being a team of destiny (to an extent)...it was obvious to many that the Penguins NEVER reached that level play in last year's playoffs. The never recaptured that work ethic and drive
that led them to a cup the year before. Many of the same players were back, but there was something missing from the equation.
This year has been very
It can be argued that the entire season has been a test of this team's determination and character.
A team that's built on the idea of strength down the middle and in goal, has been tested, at every level of that equation, during this season...and somehow managed to win games on all those occasions.
When Marc Andre Fleury started the season in terrible form, Brent Johnson filled in and was fantastic.
When Jordan Staal missed the first half of the season because of injuries, guys like Jeffrey and Letestu played increased roles and helped the team win.
And of course, when the better part of the second half of the season has been played without Evgeni Malkin AND Sidney Crosby, the Penguins have relied on the once maligned goaltender, Marc Andre Fleury; improved play from guys like Kennedy, Kunitz & Michalek and the addition of a healthy Jordan Staal to put this team within a few points of the Flyers and the top spot in the eastern conference.
All of those things make this team seem much better prepared for the playoff road ahead than they were last year at this time.
Now the only question is, can a group like this, full of drive and determination but without the goal scoring confidence they had in the past, win enough games to advance in the playoffs...in hopes that they can stay alive long enough to get their captain back?
We're looking to run a playoff eliminator pool...see the details here: