When the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics end and the NHL stars return to their respective cities, one thing will remain the same: The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a beautiful position with only a month and a half remaining in the 2013-14 regular season.
The Penguins are not only leading the Metropolitan Division by an astounding 14 points, but they are also five points ahead of the Boston Bruins for the top team in the Eastern Conference.
As nice as all that sounds, this Olympic break came at the perfect time for the Penguins. For months the team had been battling nagging injuries from key players and had relied on AHL players to fill the void. Players like Jayson Megna, Brian Gibbons and Simon Despres have all played spectacular hockey when given the chance, but the truth of the matter is that there are players waiting to return to the team that can make the Penguins even more lethal than they already are.
Players like Beau Bennett, Joe Vitale, Chris Conner and Tomas Vokoun have all been on injured reserve awaiting their chance to help the Penguins reach their fourth Stanley Cup title. This two-week hiatus could have been the perfect elixir for their returns.
Bennett, Vitale and Vokoun are nearing a return, and news breaking that defenseman Paul Martin experienced a hand injury during the Olympics will make this hiatus even more important.
It isn’t every season that the schedule delivers a two-week break to most NHL players to let those bumps and bruises heal as they get their legs back. Sure, there are players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin who didn’t receive such a break, but they will still be sharp as they haven’t missed a beat since the Olympics began.
In the grand scheme of things, this Olympic break was a great break for a team that has worn down as the postseason has approached the past few years. Hopefully this will help re-energize a team that looks more than just playoff bound but destined for a date with Lord Stanley and his fabled cup.