The Pittsburgh Penguins got their 17th win on the season after defeating the Florida Panthers (12-12-4) by a score of 5-1; the Penguins (17-7-3) have now won four straight games. Although Pittsburgh hasn’t lost back-to- back games this year, there was a stretch in the past month that the team didn’t have the consistency that either head coach Mike Sullivan or the players wanted.
However, in their last eight games, the Penguins are 6-2 and have scored more than four goals in each of their victories; the offense has been an unstoppable force over the last handful of games. What is even more impressive is that Sidney Crosby, who has had a big hand in the scoring, has had immense help from players like Conor Sheary and Matt Cullen, who also scored in Thursday night’s game against Florida.
The Panthers’ only score came from former Penguin Jaromir Jagr, who notched his sixth goal of the season. Florida, which is having a pretty average season thus far, looked outmatched in every aspect of the game. The Penguins came out of the gate with speed, poise and confidence — they looked like a team riding a win streak.
A three-goal first period didn’t give Florida much of a chance early. It gave Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray the ability to be a bit looser in net and stay aggressive in certain situations without having any major repercussion.
Defense Done Right
There have been a lot of positives for Pittsburgh during its win streak, but, perhaps, its biggest positive is that its defense is getting the job done. Thursday, with only four giveaways compared to the Panthers 13, the Penguins did nothing but set themselves up for success.
The change in defensive play over the last 10 games or so has clearly made a difference. (Granted, in some games the defense might not have played its best and the starting netminder may not have had his best outing.) Overall, better control of the puck while shifting out of its zone and the increased production on offense has made the defense a huge part of Pittsburgh’s win streak.
Justin Schultz is looking like the Penguins best defender right now because of his awareness and production. In the game against the Panthers, Schultz had two assists and played just as well around the blue line. For Pittsburgh to continue this hot streak, it will need Schultz — along with the rest of the defense — to continue the solid play on the ice.
Beginning To Look A Lot Like Champ-yinz
Recently, the Penguins have played like they’re one of the league’s most elite teams.
Their play beforehand didn’t necessarily discredit the team’s ability, but Pittsburgh just didn’t look like the team that hoisted the Cup some months ago. The improvement on defense, the increased production by the offense and goaltenders Marc-Andre Fleury and Murray looking back to form has made the Metropolitan Division that much more interesting.
The Penguins will next go on the road to face the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday at 7:00 p.m. EST.