All Is Not Lost For The Pittsburgh Penguins

Sidney Crosby and Marc Andre Fleury

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

To say that the stretch the Pittsburgh Penguins have had since the Olympic Break has been rough is an understatement. It has been near dreadful at times. Injuries continue to pile up as the team begins to show mental weakness and unraveling at inopportune times. However, with all that said, all is not lost for the Penguins.

Last night’s victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets clinched the Penguins’ eighth straight trip to the postseason. At this point in the regular season, all the Penguins have to focus on are potential playoff matchups. Oh, and also trying to resurrect their games and be playing good hockey heading into the playoffs.

Before Penguins fans go ahead and anoint the Boston Bruins as the king of the Eastern Conference, maybe its time we have a quick history lesson. How many years were the Penguins the gang busters in the regular season, only to falter in the postseason? Every year since their 2009 Stanley Cup victory, to be completely honest. How many years did the NHL see the Washington Capitals be the No. 1 overall seed, only to fall to the likes of the Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers?

See where I’m going with this? The Penguins might not be playing the brand of hockey that the fans and players are accustomed to, but that brand of hockey also hasn’t been to a Stanley Cup final in nearly five years. The Penguins and their fans shouldn’t be worried about points, but about the style in which the team is playing.

The past few weeks have had the Penguins in many one goal games that resemble the type of grudge matches they’ll see in the playoffs. It’s that adversity and that experience that will help carry this team into the postseason. Goaltending remains a gigantic question mark, but the team has put all their chips in Marc Andre Fleury‘s corner, so it’s time to see if their support paid off.

The Penguins clinched the playoffs, and most Penguins fans are pretty down in the dumps at how their favorite team is playing, as well as the injuries that seemingly never go away.

The focus for the Penguins has to shift now. No longer interested in the top seed in the East, the Penguins should be looking to get healthy and playing inspired hockey come playoff time, getting the contributions for their superstars, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and making a serious postseason run.

When the playoffs start, everyone has the same record: 0-0. With the playoffs already clinched for Pittsburgh, its time for the Penguins to start preparing for the second season, which is set to begin in a few weeks.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on  Twitter @BnGBlitz and add him on Google+.

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