Going into Monday night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, the Pittsburgh Penguins are one of the hottest teams at the start of this young NHL season. This ideal start is not due to just one factor, but many important factors.
One of the best things that could have happened to the 2013-14 Penguins was the tough playoff loss last year to the Boston Bruins. Last season’s Pens were one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. No one thought that this high-flying offense would shut down anytime soon. Then, they ran into a hot Bruins team and four games later the Penguins were getting tee-times instead of preparing for the Stanley Cup.
This playoff series showed the Penguins’ organization and their fans many faults that the team had and so far this season (knock on wood), the Pens seem to be fixing those problems.
The first and most important thing they are doing is focusing their defense around Marc-Andre Fleury as well as the way that Fleury himself plays. The Penguins are focusing on blocking shots, getting sticks into the passing lanes, and being in the right position at the right time. Fleury has also shown a new focus that has not been seen in Pittsburgh. “The Flower” as his teammates and fans call him, has always been a joker. Now, Fleury does not speak to the media before the game and just seems to be like a machine with his focus before the game.
The second thing is the team’s power play. With all of the goal scorers and play-makers on this team, you would think that the power play would be a given. However, last year the players seemed to want to make the perfect play instead of just being aggressive. This season, even with the injuries to Kris Letang and James Neal, the power play of the Pens has been a weapon that needs to be feared by opposing teams.
Third, the additions to the coaching staff have seemed to be an added boost to this already talented team. Over the offseason, the Pens added one of the best coaches in the NHL as an assistant, Jacques Martin. With the addition of Martin, the organization added a former Jack Adams Award winner. This only strengthens the team, especially when the Penguins may need a “bad guy” in the locker room when times get tough.
Finally, the health of the “two-headed monster” as they call them in Pittsburgh: Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. When a team has two Hart Trophy and scoring champions on the same team, one would think that this team should score six goals a game. However, due to injuries since their Stanley Cup win in 2009, the two scoring champions have not played many games together. So far, these two players are healthy and are looking as strong as ever, especially Crosby. If these two men can continue their eye-popping play, combined with the other factors listed above, this team will be almost impossible to stop.