Penguins' fate rests in their hands

With 7 divisional games left in their regular season, with the most wins in the Eastern Conference (43), and with one point behind the Montreal Canadiens, with a vital game-in-hand, the Pittsburgh Penguins have the ability to control their own fate in the Eastern Conference (and Atlantic Division) standings.
By going 6-0-1, the Penguins will guarantee first place, regardless of what Montreal or NJ does. It would also give them 106 points, one more than last year’s amazing season.

With 7 goals scored in 3 of their last 4 home games, including 7 against the Devils (who previously had allowed only 5 in a game this season) with five in the third period, all without Sidney Crosby (who is due to return shortly), the Penguins are now looking like the favorites to win the East and that all-important home-ice throughout the Eastern playoffs.

Let’s break down the games left, and how the team has played of late.
Also, a few comparisons with the Habs to keep Habs fans’ interest.

I’ll break it down by player and team stats, finishing off with the games remaining for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

PLAYER STATS (For Malkin, Sykora, Malone, Hossa, and Dupuis with Gonchar on D and Fleury in net)

Evgeni Malkin is averaging 1.77 points per game (20 goals, 26 assists for 46 points in 26 games) without Crosby, but only 1.13 with Crosby in the lineup. Malkin is only the 2nd player this year to record 100 points, with Iginla, Lecavalier and Datsyuk on the trail. Evgeni has recorded 102 points to Ovechkin’s 106. The Capitals have six games remaining. The Penguins have seven. Playing without Crosby, Malkin has been the best player in the NHL statistically (based on PPG). Can he continue his torrid pace when Sid comes back? Sid thinks so, but we’ll see. If so, and if Hossa and Crosby mesh (which both assure us will be the case), the Pens are truly to be feared.

The Malone-Malkin-Sykora line has been arguably the best line in hockey since Crosby went down with injury. I dare someone to come up with a more productive line! The Sens top line hasn’t been as dominant recently as it was early in the season.

Let’s start with Petr Sykora.
He has 33 points (13 goals and 20 assists) in the same 26 games without Crosby, playing on Malkin’s line. That’s good for 1.27PPG. On the season, Alfredsson is 4th overall with a 1.27PPG. (Ovechkin, Crosby and Malkin are tops with 1.39, 1.37 and 1.36, respectively.)

Next, let’s move on to the upcoming UFA, who all signs point to will re-sign with Pittsburgh, his hometown: Ryan Malone.
He has 29 points (15 goals and 14 assists) in the same 26 games, with 0 points in 8 of those games. His 1.12PPG during that span equals Kovalchuk’s seasonal span, which puts him in 12th overall.

Ryan Malone is having a career-year, and is only 4 goals shy of 30, and 2 points shy of 50. He does everything. PK, PP, fights, hits. Most teams would love to have this guy on their team. Here’s hoping he stays in Pitty.

Petr Sykora has reached the 60+ point mark for the first time since 2001 with the NJ Devils. He’s also just 3 goals shy of 30, which would be his first 30-goal season in 5 years since 2003 with the Ducks.

Next, we have Marian Hossa. He’s been wearing a knee brace, isn’t completely at 100%, but has been playing amazing. His defensive play and takeaways, and speed especially while back-checking, have really impressed me. One can only wonder what his chemistry with Crosby will be when they finally play together.

Hossa has 6 points (1 goal and 5 assists) in his past 4 (full) games for the Penguins. He has an amazing production of 14:19 in his time with Pittsburgh (a League best), well up from his 23:29 in Atlanta this year. Since 2002, his production has been between 17:46 and 18:51. Looks like Pittsburgh is the right fit for him after all. After experiencing the magic of Pittsburgh, Marian may very well decide to re-sign there, even if it means taking 500K less cash per year.

Hossa has scored 80, 82, 92 and 100 points in his past 4 seasons, until slumping this year in Atlanta. If he were to re-sign with Pittsburgh next year, he’d surely get at least 90 points and likely return to 100 again playing with Sid or Malkin.

Lastly, the other not-often-talked-about acquisition at the trade deadline: Pascal Dupuis. This guy has been nothing short of phenomenal. His speed is amazing. His drive and passion are obvious. I think he is a perfect fit in Pittsburgh as well. After a slow-start, 2 points in 6 games, Dupuis is now on a 5-game point streak, tallying 9 points (1 goal and 8 assists) in that span. He hasn’t been mooching points, but has often made a brilliant pass for the first assist. In total, he has 11 points in 11 games as a Pen! He plays LW, right now on Staal’s line with Hossa on RW. So, I’d expect him to make the top line when Sid comes back, and Jordan to center the so-called ‘checking’ line at that point.

If the Malkin line stays intact, which it will, then I’d expect a Dupuis-Crosby-Hossa line. Those scoring lines will be frightening to face in the playoffs.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sergei Gonchar.
Gonchar has returned to the 60-point plateau for the 3rd time in his career. In 2003 and last year he tallied 67 points, both career bests in full 82-game seasons. This year, he’s missed 4 games, but he’s on pace for 66 points, and this could be a new career year for him. His production of 30:42 is his best ever, outdoing his previous best of 31:53. Just like last year where he was 2nd in defensive scoring to Scott Niedermayer, this year he is 2nd to Lidstrom (currently 5 points back, having played one extra game). His +12 is 21st in the NHL for defensemen, but more telling, it is 8th in the East, behind Oduya, Corvo, Martin, Cullimore, Coburn, Hedican and Phillips. He is ahead, and in some cases far ahead, of Redden, Chara, Hamrlik, Komisarek, Volchenkov, Markov, Streit and Kaberle (the least three all in the negatives). This guy needs serious Norris consideration. Obviously Lidstrom will win it and deserves it, but Gonchar, not even on the All-Star Ballot but brought to the All-Star game anyways, should be in the Top 5 somewhere. If you watched him this year, you’ll agree he is the Pens most reliable defenseman in his own end (with the exception of Scuderi).

Lastly, we have to talk about where the Penguins true Cup chances lie, in their goaltender: Marc-Andre Fleury.
Just like Carey Price of the Habs, Fleury has been playing amazing of late. Both goalies have moved up the ranks, and now lie in 23rd and 24th for GAA with 2.61 and 2.64. They are also both now in the Top 15 with .917 SV% for the rookie and .913SV% for the Flower.

Last year, Fleury won 40 games, but his numbers weren’t all that great. He had a 2.83GAA and a .906SV%. He has improved both this year, especially lately.

What I really want to talk about is Fleury’s play of late, since the beginning of the season was brutal for all Pens, and the Flower missed a couple months since his injury.

Against the Devils he stopped 24 of 25 shots to improve to 6-1-0 since Feb. 28, and his save percentage is .939 over that span. He’s been .939 or higher in 5 of his last 7 games. He’s had a 1.31GAA in those 6 wins.

Habs fans: Carey Price has been similarly amazing. He’s 7-3 in his past 10. In his past 10 games his SV% is .935. He’s been over .939 in 7 of those games. Amazing! He’s had a 1.41GAA in those 7 wins.

I write this only to show you how great Fleury has been, and how hypocritical you all sound when you try to slan
der or criticize the Flower. He has been playing slightly better than Price, but even if it were slightly worse, it’s irrelevant to the point that both have been excellent goalies, and there’s little to fear from either, except that Price has no NHL playoff experience. Price is 20 years old and Fleury is 23.

Even more telling, Fleury won 6 straight before his injury. The first was a 6-5 shootout victory vs. the Sens. After that, in his 5 following wins, he had a .959SV% and a 0.80GAA.

MAF has won 12 of his last 14 starts.
In his 12 wins, he has a SV% of .949 with a GAA of 1.08.

No one can criticize his regular season performance. The only thing we have to worry about is whether he can keep this up in the playoffs. He sure has a lot to prove, no one doubts that. Let’s hope he can overcome his personal demons.


The Penguins are 8-1-2 in their past 11 games at Mellon Arena, and have averaged 4.73 goals over that span, including 25 over the past four games. Home ice is supremely important for the Pens throughout the playoffs, and I’ll show you why below.

At 35-14-5 since Thanksgiving, including 8-5-1 in the division, the Penguins’ quest to play potential Game 7s at home through at least three playoff rounds is noteworthy because statistics suggest they perform best when inside the NHL’s oldest arena.

They are 23-10-5 at Mellon Arena, which rates the East’s best home mark. They average 3.32 goals per game at home. It’s not that the Penguins are bad outside of Pittsburgh. Their 20-15-2 mark ranks in the top third among 30 clubs. However, they average fewer goals per game at 2.89 on the road and are essentially .500 against potential playoff clubs at 12-11-1 (something of concern).

The main issue for the Penguins, both over the final regular-season weeks and in the playoffs, is their alarming home-away disparity regarding the penalty kill. The Penguins entered yesterday rated 24th in the league with an 80.4 overall kill efficiency rate. Their 84.6 percent rate at home was sixth, but their 77.1 percent on the road was 27th.


In the West, only one team has more than 225GF: The Wings with an NHL-leading 242.
In the East, 6 teams are between 231 and 240. With their recent big wins, the Pens find themselves in 4th with 233 goals. The Habs, with a game-in-hand, are first in the East with 240. Ottawa is in 2nd with 238 and a game-in-hand on the Habs (their next game, ironically).

The Penguins are the 3rd best team defensively in the East (based on GA). Their 204GA ranks 3rd behind NJ (180) and the NYR (184). In 4th, having played an extra game, are the Habs with 208.

The Habs and Pens far and away lead the East in the difference between GF to GA.

The Habs are currently in 1st with +32.
The Pens are in 2nd with +29.
Far away in 3rd are the Sens with +16.
The NYR are +14.
The Sabres are +13.
The NJD and Flyers are +11.

Only these 7 teams have scored more goals than they have let in (in the East), and the Habs and Pens do it the best. No wonder they are in 1st and 2nd in the East right now.

So, let’s do a quick comparison between the two.

The Pens have 5 players with 60 or more points. Also, the same 5 with 50 or more points, with Ryan Malone 2 points shy of 50.

The Habs have 2 players with 60 or more points, but also 5 players with 50 or more points, with A. Kostitsyn a point away and Higgins 3 away.

Conclusion: both have good depth, with the Penguins having more top-level talent, also including one of only two 100-point scorers this season.

The Pens have 5 20-goal scorers, with three trying to reach 30 (Hossa (27), Sykora (27) and Malone (26)) and one, Malkin, with 44 goals in 4th in the NHL. He is trying hard to reach 50 goals, and may just do it. He’d likely be only the 4th player to do so (Ovechkin and Kovalchuk already having done it, and Iginla 2 goals away).

The Habs have 4 20-goal scorers, with one 30-goal scorer (Kovalev (33)), and one trying to reach 30 (Plekanec (27)).

Conclusion: The Pens have the better goal-scorers, and again the upper-level talent in that area.

The Pens have ELEVEN 10-goal scorers. No more will reach that level.

The Habs have NINE 10-goal scorers, with S. Kostitsyn a goal away.

Conclusion: The Pens have more depth to score goals.

Note: The Habs do have 7 15-goal scorers, with Ryder a goal away, while the Pens have only the 5 who have scored 20+, with 3 guys at 12 goals.

The Habs have two defensemen who have scored 10+ goals and 50+ points. The only team in the NHL to do so (Lidstrom has 8 goals). Markov averages 5:10 for PP TOI/G, while Streit is 2nd on the team with 4:53. Kovalev is 3rd with 4:08.

The Pens have two defensemen who have scored 10+ goals, and Gonchar has 60+ points, but Whitney has lagged behind from last year’s heroics and only has 38 points (albeit 12 goals like Streit). Gonchar averages 5:24 for PP TOI/G, while Whitney is in 2nd with 5:04 followed closely by Crosby (5:02) and Malkin (4:52).

Conclusion: The Habs have a better PP, which sees a guy like Streit pick up a hell of a lot more points than Whitney, who has slumped. The PP may be huge in the playoffs if the refs keep calling them. If so, a huge advantage to the NHL’s top PP team. For their part, Pittsburgh is 3rd in the East and 4th in the NHL when it comes to PP success. It’s our PK that may do us in, as noted above.

What may be scary for Habs fans, is that their two leading defensive scorers (Markov and Streit, 4th and 6th in the NHL, respectively) are both MINUS players… Whereas Gonchar and Whitney are both PLUS players…


The Penguins’ regular-season ending tour of the Atlantic Division continues tonight in Uniondale, N.Y., with a game against the NY Islanders. They will face the Devils in Newark, N.J., on Tuesday. The Islanders will visit Mellon Arena on Thursday, the Rangers on Sunday, and the Penguins will play in Madison Square Garden next Monday before wrapping with a home-and-home series against Philadelphia on April 2 and 6.

All in all, the Pens have the top seed in the East in their fate. If they can go 6-0-1 in their remaining 7 games, it’s theirs. If they can just beat NJ in regulation again, it would go a long way to ensuring at least a top 2 ranking come playoff time. Who knows, if the Habs and Pens keep playing like they do, perhaps they’ll meet in the Conference Finals. Personally, I’d love for the Devils and Sens to have to face each other first round, with the Rangers and Canes playing as well.

175 Responses to Penguins' fate rests in their hands

  1. HABSSTAR says:

    Yes it is my opinion of Komisarek, and it's just as objective as yours is on Scuderi. 

  2. BruMagnus says:

    Fleury continues his winning ways!!

    Another 1GAA game. Admittedly it was a soft goal. But it was also offside and Petr Sykora gave up partially through his backcheck and didn't pick up his man.

    Still, Fleury is still rolling and will keep doing so, KNOCK ON WOOD!

    Pens, currently, 1st in the East. Let's hope the Habs lose tonight!

  3. BruMagnus says:

    LOL! You? Objective? hahahaha!

    You just like to get under people's skins! You don't actually have any thoughts of your own!

  4. BruMagnus says:

    What are you basing that hyperbole on? The fact that your name has your love child in it proves how bias you are.

    You are the blind one. Niittymaki is amazing and would be as good as Price on the Habs.

    20 times… LMFAO!

    I like Price, but I'm not delusional like you!

  5. BruMagnus says:

    I'm sorry. You are right. You're only making yourself look stupid, not Habs fans in general. I shouldn't generalize from one problem case.

  6. BruMagnus says:

    Let me confirm. The Roberts trade wasn't for a rental since he re-signed with the Pens. So doesn't that make it a good trade?

    Roberts was excellent last year and showed the guys how to play in the playoffs (even if it didn't immediately rub off, it should this season or in the future). Also, his workout regimen wowed the younger guys and showed them what it takes to be a true athlete.

    Welch would have been an 8th defensemen this year, don't you think? As for the future, we can only wait.

  7. BruMagnus says:

    You drew your own, again, retarded conclusions.

    "what your saying is if a goaler wins the AHL mvp and WJC, then like antero nittymaki they are not going to suceed in the nhl."

    NO! What I'm saying is anything outside the NHL cannot necessarily be used as good evidence for what someone may do in the NHL! Of course it can and should be used as some sort of guideline, otherwise what's the point in scouting and drafting, but it's not all-inclusive and 100% proof of a player's (and especially goalie's) success at the NHL level.

    Look at Maxime Talbot. He won back to back playoff MVPs in the QMJHL, but is a 3rd or 4th line player in Pittsburgh…

    Lastly, I welcome your challenge. Remember these words:

    Fleury will raise the Cup well before Price does!

  8. BruMagnus says:

    And how many have you won since 1990?
    or since the Sharks joined and the massive NHL expansion began?
    or even how many have you won since Mario entered the NHL with the Penguins as a bottom feeder? or even since 1980?

    You can have a love affair with the Cups you won before you were even born if you want, but that makes you even worse than a Leafs fan! BURN!

  9. BruMagnus says:

    Don't bother reasoning with most of the people on here, they'll either ignore your message, or be angry at how wise it is and not reply.

    They cannot rest Malkin now if Hossa is injured. They need to win 1st in the East! don't they?

  10. HABSSTAR says:

    Match him against the best in the NHL, Iginla, Ovechkin, Lecavalier…he comes through. Would you say that about Komisarek? In fact, how many defenders can you say that about? – Now that was what I was responding to.  Would I say that about Komisarek?  Yes I would…tell me who else you would want on the ice as a D-man for the Habs against those guys?  It has to be Komisarek, and he comes through.

    How does any of that sound subjective?  I'm sorry I don't have a million obscure stats taken over a random segment of games played to support it.
    Ask yourself this…would you trade what's his name for Komisarek straight up?  I bet you would!

  11. kamullia says:

    Ahh. I still reply like with anyone else. I give the courtesy and the rest is not important.

    Hossa won’t miss games, he’s just bruised and will need extra padding to get protected for the games, that’s all. As to winning 1st, I agree that it is highly important considering all things, but my reasoning to rest Malkin would be what if he is spent by the time the playoffs come and becomes completely ineffective? Therefore what is better: Risk not coming 1st but having a rested Malkin when the season re-sets for the playoffs or coming in 1st but risk having Malkin being of no consequence during the playoffs?

    I say rest him now. Just one or two games. Let him be recharged for the playoffs. Besides, Sid is back now and he could and should be eager, with Hossa helping, to carry the team while Gino recharges.

  12. kamullia says:

    Correct, Roberts was not a rental because he re-signed, but I never mentioned anything about that aspect of that trade in my post, so I am not sure what is your point. Perhaps that I am not happy if Hossa becomes a rental? At any rate, I was against the Roberts trade and it was not because of him possibly being a rental but the price. Roberts was very good during the playoffs at first, but he trailed off at the end. His workout regimen is commendable, but that is something that the Pens players were already adamant about for a couple of years before Roberts, and as I mentioned before, that fact was one of the reasons that swayed Roberts to waive his NTC when Recchi pointed out the physical readiness and commitment of the entire team. Roberts simply joined the health club, he did not shape it.

    We have to wait and see what becomes of Welch, even if he is with a team that is not known for getting the most out of their prospects. I simply see soo much potential in him that I just cannot really fathom a total failure from him, but all is possible. We cannot really say what Welch would have been with the Pens at this point. Him being with the team could have influenced signings like Shero possibly bypassing Sydor, so it is hard to say what could have been. Remember that Shero signed 4 defensemen during the off-season.

  13. kamullia says:

    Ahhh….Komisarek is the choice for the Habs, yes I agree for their roster, but that does not mean he is as effective as Scuderi has been and I most certainly would not trade Scuderi for Komisarek. I would not even entertain the idea. There are other defensemen I would trade Scuderi for, but Komisarek is most certainly not one since Scuderi has proven more effective than him thus far.

    But again, I agree that Komisarek is the choice for that role in the Habs of shutdown guy. Keep in mind, Scuderi is not used (typically) or considered a shut-down guy, he just has to become so when the circumstances arise. He simply gets it done and gets off the ice.

  14. careyprice31 says:

    Carey Price continued his winnning ways as montreal came back from a 3-1  deficit and now sit on top the eatern conference woooooooooo wooooooo.

  15. careyprice31 says:

    U believe nittimaki would make a difference on the habs okayy?  And you say im delusional WOW. I wont respond to the comment u made about my name cause u jsut don't get get it and i dont wann ahave to explain myself over and over again. Oh by the way bru why dont u get more facts an if u ever have a chance to listen to pierre maguire please listen to what he has to say about price including bob mckenzie and see what he thinks about the penguins. I oviously am doing a terrible job of arguing with you or trying to proove anything to you so maybe if you hear it from hockey brains your thaught of reasoning will change and not be so one dimensional.

  16. careyprice31 says:

    Stupid what pointare you trying to make ? How many have pitsburgh won?

  17. BruMagnus says:

    Price's stats are subpar. He is barely in the top 30 for GAA. The Habs allow too many shots again. Price will shit the bed. He's barely a starting goaltender.

  18. BruMagnus says:

    You just proved my point. The HABS came back after Price let in 2, if not 3, marginal weak goals. The first one was weak rebound control, the 2nd and 3rd were pisspoor positioning that let a simple shot go in… Fleury saves those all the time. BTW, Fleury let in only one goal again… unlike Price, where the team has to bail him outta his failures, the Pens' Fleury bails their team out… that's what a real goalie is all about and the kind of goaltending you need to win in the playoffs…
    Kudos to the Habs for having the strength to come back against the Sabres, but if it were any decent team and surely the Penguins, they wouldnt be scoring 2 goals in the last 5 minutes!

  19. BruMagnus says:

    With the Habs and Halak's pathetic loss to the Leafs, and the Pens with yet another sensational goaltending display from Fleury beating the Rangers handily, the Pens yet again have fate in their hands!

    Now they are 1 point up of the Habs, with 2 extra wins, playing the same amount of games!

  20. chimoty says:

    I know this is a little off your topic, but I had to post this somewhere.  I have noticed a mass neutral respect between the top 2 teams of the Eastern Conference(Montreal and Pittsburgh).  Normally when it comes to Eastern Conference Canadien teams, I have a hatred.  Even now I cannot stand the Leafs after they helped the Penguins gain a point on top of the conference, but there is no reason for Habs and Pens fans to hate eachother.  I've seen numerous posts on TSN and other forums that say if their team loses they hope the others moves on.  The 2 have completely different historic backgrounds, but neither have won the Cup since the early 90's.  It would be great to see this become a respect rivalry.  What do you guys think?

  21. BruMagnus says:

    He signed 4 D because he lost 4 (or was it 5) D… whats your point?

  22. BruMagnus says:

    Obviously I had thought about the above scenario. And obviously it's better to rest Malkin, risk losing 1st place, but then have a rested Malkin for the playoffs.

    However, the Pens only play 2 games in one week. April 2nd and 6th they have games. That's 3 days off between. And then the playoffs dont start til the 9th… that should be plenty of rest for him, don't you think?

  23. BruMagnus says:

    And yet again your pathetic weak fragile mind has no comeback.

  24. BruMagnus says:

    I agree. I previously wrote: there’s been a lot of antagonism these days between Habs and Pens fans. It’s really quite ridiculous. There’s little logic in bashing each other’s team given our successes. I think a lot of this is apprehension or even doubt that stems from feelings of angst and dread over what the playoffs have in store for us. Neither team wants to be a no-show or underachieve. Both teams want to at least win a couple rounds and not have to consider their glorious season a failure due to an early exit. We are all proud fans and want our team to do the best. Securing first place in the Conference and home-ice until the Finals would go a long way towards soothing any distress, and it’s for this reason that I think we’ve all become ego-maniacal about the greatness of our team and the weakness of the ‘enemy’. All things told, we are the only two teams that have, to date, clinched a playoff spot in the East. That’s very commendable and we should both we quite pleased with this accomplishment, especially as both our teams have overcome a lot of adversity (though in completely different ways). Personally, I’ve always loved the Habs and if the Pens have the misfortune of failing to win the East, or have an early exit, I’ll be cheering for the Habs if they remain. I don’t care if this feeling is reciprocal, it won’t affect my opinion either way. But let’s face the truth, our teams will likely finish Top 2 in the East, and have to play 2 difficult, grueling playoff series’ (well maybe not if Montreal draws Boston) if we are to face each other at all, which would be in the Conference Finals. If that were to happen, I truly believe and have said so on numerous occasions as far back as mid-season that it would be a series for the ages. At that point, I’d say let the best team win and wish good luck to the victor in bringing the Cup back to the East.

  25. kamullia says:

    The point is Welch being an 8th defenseman as you assume is absolutely in question. The signings could and would have been less, let alone with which choices it was would prompted on personnel, and therefore Welch would have surely found himself in a different spot and certainly not necessarily or likely in the 8th spot as you presume.

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