Opinion: Penguins turn it around, make run at fourth Stanley Cup

You may remember a little opinion piece I wrote back in November concerning the Pittsburgh Penguins and its seasonal woes.NHL

Suffice to say, I showed no mercy in voicing my displeasure about them.

I ripped apart the coaching staff, lay blame on underperforming stars and pretty much made it abundantly clear that the Penguins were a long shot for the playoffs.

Worse yet, I questioned its legitimacy as a Stanley Cup contending team, and for the first time in years, I very much doubted that they had the will to win.

Well, I might be eating my own words now.

It is April, the 2016 NHL playoffs have begun, and the Penguins come in as one of the hottest- if not the hottest- team in the league.

Oh, how things can change in a few months’ time.

The evolution of the Penguins’ shift in gear is very reminiscent of its 2009 playoff run, where a change of coach ignited its tear through the finals in route to its third Stanley Cup.

If the past is anything to judge by, they have a very real chance of replicating that feat this spring.

For starters, you have coach Mike Sullivan, who seemingly knows how to play and position players far better than his predecessor, Mike Johnston.

That’s not to knock on the now-departed coach, but Sullivan knows how to utilize his talent in a much faster and up-tempo style of play.

This quick style has led to better decision making, which, in turn, has led to a plethora of goals.

They went on a massive tear in the last stretch of the season, winning 14 of its last 16 against 10 playoff contending teams. 

It wouldn’t be a Penguins season without a slew of injuries, and despite injuries that have seen Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and Beau Bennett sidelined for an extended period of time, the Penguins have somehow managed to piece together an impressive 46-26-8 record.

The only blemish on an otherwise Cup-favored team is that power play.

Though it has shown signs of life, it largely remains inconsistent and, at times, an actual liability.

The absence of Malkin certainly hasn’t helped matters.

One also has to consider Fleury’s absence and backup Matt Murray’s recent injury.

Just how will the Penguins cope without a solid goaltender, especially when going up against the New York Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist?

Those questions aside, this Pens team looks to have a very favorable chance of winning their first Cup in nearly 10 years.

However, a lot can happen in the playoffs, so I’m going to refrain from making bold proclamations.

After all, you saw how accurate mine have been in the past.

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