NewsProTeam | Apr 18, 2021 | 0
How the Penguins have survived one other season of horrible harm luck
The Pittsburgh Penguins have been on a quest to win no less than yet one more Stanley Cup with Sidney Crosby. It has been a revolving door as they attempt to determine it out. Because the begin of the 2016-17 NHL season, Crosby has performed with 83 totally different teammates. Prior to now 10 seasons, that quantity is 153. Each participant who goes to Pittsburgh is aware of the stakes.
“As you can imagine, from the outside, our dressing room could appear to be an intimidating dressing room to walk into, given the star power we have and the legacy these guys have built,” coach Mike Sullivan mentioned. “But it’s just the opposite, and I think Sid is the guy who breaks that barrier down. I’ve watched this happen over and over again. When we call up young players, or even some veteran players who get traded to our team — if they are intimidated when they walk in, it’s not too long before Sid puts his arm around these guys, engages them in conversation and disarms their intimidation. He makes them feel like they’re part of the team.”
That cohesion has been on show in 2021. For the second straight season, the Penguins have endured unrelenting harm luck. Solely two gamers (Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust) have performed in each sport. Solely 9 gamers have suited up in no less than 30.
The Penguins have been particularly ravaged on the middle place. Evgeni Malkin was simply beginning to discover his sport when he suffered a lower-body harm in a March 16 sport in opposition to the Boston Bruins. Teddy Blueger is sidelined with an upper-body harm. That is to not point out defenseman Brian Dumoulin, who missed 15 video games; winger Jason Zucker, who missed greater than a month; or winger Brandon Tanev, who’s listed as “week-to-week” following a earlier stint on injured reserve.
However Pittsburgh has trudged on. Coming into Thursday’s sport in opposition to the New York Rangers (7 p.m., ESPN+), the Penguins are squarely in third place within the East Division, inside placing distance of the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders, in opposition to whom they’ve gone a mixed 10-4 this season.
As soon as once more, the Penguins are dealing with some adversity. After stellar play for a month — through which the goaltending tandem of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith was tops within the league — Pittsburgh has allowed 15 objectives in its previous two video games, each losses. However trying on the large image, the Pens are heading in the right direction.
“It’s been unfortunate that we’ve been hit with it all at the same position at different parts of the season, but I really like how the guys have responded,” Sullivan mentioned. “Guys that have been given opportunities have stepped up and really taken advantage of it. … And our veterans, our core guys, have been great leaders through this. I’ve watched these guys for five-plus seasons, and they never look for excuses. They always have an expectation to win, and believe we have enough to win, regardless of who is in the lineup. We have a lot of hockey left in front of us, and we’re well aware of that, but certainly the progress we’ve made to this point has been encouraging.”
Now Penguins followers are questioning, can all of that translate to Stanley Cup glory this summer time?
Since profitable back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017, Pittsburgh hasn’t been capable of fairly determine it out. The Penguins completed no decrease than third within the Metropolitan Division in every of the three seasons since, however they’ve but to make it previous the second spherical of the playoffs. The previous two journeys had been particularly humbling. After being swept by the Isles within the opening spherical of 2019, Pittsburgh misplaced to the Twelfth-seeded Canadiens within the qualification spherical of the 2020 bubble.
This season’s Penguins crew has been fueled by some sudden sources. One nice shock, serving to out with middle depth, has been 27-year-old Frederick Gaudreau, who went almost two years between video games as an NHL participant and is signed for simply $700,000 this season. One other is Cody Ceci, the previous scapegoat defenseman of the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs. The 27-year-old Ceci, who signed a $1.25 million prove-it deal this offseason, was made a wholesome scratch only one sport into his Penguins tenure.
Now, Ceci is indispensable. His anticipated objectives for proportion of 53.46 is larger than any common Penguins defenseman.
“We felt like Cody was a good, solid player that maybe in a different environment might have an opportunity to thrive,” Sullivan mentioned. “We also felt like the style we play in Pittsburgh fit his strengths. It took him a little while to get comfortable. I think maybe he was overthinking it a bit early in the season. But he’s worked extremely hard. And I think he’s playing the game at a different pace now than he was when we first got him — not just physically in his skating ability, but also his processing of the game. He looks to me like he’s so much faster, he’s so much more mobile, he’s getting back to pucks quickly, he joins the rush as good as any defenseman we have.”
Coping with a rotating forged has been all of the tougher contemplating the league’s strict COVID-19 guidelines, which forestall most in-person interplay. Sullivan has discovered himself getting artistic. The coach tries to reap the benefits of occasions the crew is collectively. For instance, typically when the crew is within the locker room getting dressed, Sullivan makes use of the chance to run some video conferences on locker room TVs.
“We also have an app called Learn to Win that we utilize,” Sullivan mentioned. “It allows us to push information and short video meetings through, and they can see it on their iPhone at their leisure. That’s been a really valuable tool for us. We’re trying to maximize the technology we have at our disposal to interact with guys in the most efficient way.”
However some issues by no means change. The 33-year-old Crosby remains to be main the crew in factors (44) and trails solely Ryan O’Reilly and Patrice Bergeron for faceoff wins.
“He’s constantly thinking about the game, and thinking of ways to get better,” Sullivan mentioned. “He has an insatiable desire to be the best, right down to details whether it’s faceoffs or a one-timer from a bad angle, or some small, subtle skill on the power play from certain positions that he doesn’t think he’s mastered. He’s out working on it with our skills coach before practice.”
And each time a brand new participant enters the lineup, Sullivan finds himself sharing the identical recommendation. “I usually tell them not to overthink it,” he mentioned. “As a coaching staff, we try not to overload them with too much information because we want them to play on their instincts and to trust their instincts. Sometimes less is more from a coaching standpoint in that circumstance. But our message is always to enjoy it and embrace it and take advantage of the moment.”
Which aligns with how Sullivan thinks the Penguins will recover from their playoff hump this summer time. Apart from staying wholesome, the coach mentioned he is aware of how his crew can hold profitable come summer time.
“I just think we have to stay in the moment,” Sullivan mentioned. “We need that short-term focus on the task at hand. And then we need to apply a certain commitment to the attention to detail every day, and we’ve got to bring a certain compete level that gives us a chance to win. I think that’s how you get consistent results in this league. It’s the conversation we’ve had with our guys through the course of this year. When we play to that, I think we’re as competitive a team as there is in this league, and we’re going to give ourselves a chance to be successful.”