After a booming start to the season against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins looked to have returned to their old form of the Stanley Cup years of recent times. But a few days later it became apparent that the team still had a long way to go.
The Toronto game, Jan. 23, left fans stunned as the Maple Leafs crushed the team and the fan’s enthusiasm about the 2-0 start. Thinking the team would rebound two days later in Winnipeg seemed silly as the team’s defense, goaltending and scoring failed to make an appearance.
Everyone has placed such a high importance in starting the short season off well, unlike the Capitals, who earned their first win against the Sabres Sunday, or the Flyers, though….I’m sure many a fan were happy about their start to the season. So when the Penguins dropped to 2-2 on the season, the scrambling began. Talks of trades and sending down players to the minors became prevalent on social media.
But when Sunday’s game against Ottawa came around the fans were treated to exciting, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat hockey. Different from the past two games, the defense showed up. Fleury played better against Ottawa than he had in the past, including some remarkable saves in the shootout.
Even though he seemed to be a little off during the game, Evgeni Malkin took it to Craig Anderson and scored the game-winning goal. The question remains, what will happen when the Penguins take the ice against the Isles? Will the Penguins of a week ago with a lacking defense show up? Or will the goaltending and defense stand strong as they did against Ottawa?
The Penguins have to keep their defensive efforts at a maximum, especially if their scoring continues to struggle. The team needs to gel and get back to the well-oiled machine seen last year.
One issue that might affect the Penguins immensely is the loss of Matt Niskanen. Though the organization said the lower-body injury isn’t serious and he’ll only be out two-four weeks, Nisky’s presence on the ice is important. The Penguins went through defensive roulette last season when injuries plagued the blue line. Only five games in, the team already finds itself with one sidelined. It’s imperative the defense stay healthy during this short season.
The Penguins performance against the Islanders will be the first indicator if the loss of the first Penguins player to injury will have an impact on the team.