If the trend continues, Pens should win

In the last eight games the Pittsburgh Penguins are 4-3-1, swapping wins and losses each game.

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Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 p.m. on Versus

The Pens are coming off a 3-2 loss at Ottawa, which means fans are due to witness a win tonight at home against the Buffalo Sabres.  Fans should also prepare for an offensive explosion.

In each of the last three games following a loss, Pittsburgh has scored 14 goals — an average of nearly five goals per game.  In the previous losses the totals go way down: six goals, an average of two a game.

I think it’s no coincidence this is happening.  With players in and out of the lineup as frequently as they have been for the Pens so far this year, combined with a lack of leadership on the power play, it has been hard to generate consistent offense.  The consistency has been coming from a select few.

Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby celebrates his hat trick against the New Jersey Devils with an empty net goal in the closing moments of the third period of their NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania November 29, 2008. REUTERS/David DeNoma (UNITED STATES)
Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby celebrates his hat trick against the New Jersey Devils with an empty net goal in the closing moments of the third period of their NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania November 29, 2008. REUTERS/David DeNoma (UNITED STATES)

Sidney Crosby is continuing his tear despite the team’s issues.  Since Nov. 26, Crosby has tallied 15 points (6 G – 9 A) in six games.  He now sits three points behind the league leader in points, Evgeni Malkin — a guy who is equally as hot.

In that same time span, Malkin has posted 12 points (4 G – 8 A).  Now dubbed the “Two Headed Monster,” Crosby and Malkin have not been able to carry the team, though.

Another nickname, the “Caridiac Kids,” has been used to describe this Pittsburgh team and its ability to rally from third period deficits.  However, it’s becoming evident that comebacks night after night are going to eventually fade away.  This team has to be able to carry a third period lead.

Three games ago the Pens dropped a 2-0 lead for the second time of the year to the New York Rangers and lost in overtime.  And in the last game against Buffalo, they carried a 3-2 lead in to the third period and lost 4-3.

It’s nice to see comeback wins, but it overshadows the real problem about this team: they have not learned how to protect or play with a lead.

Maybe this has to do with a young and inexperienced blue line.  Maybe this has to deal with coaching.  Whatever is the answer it needs to be resolved.

We are approaching that time of the year where we have seen the Penguins make their push and excel.

From Dec. 15 until Jan. 14 last season, the Pens went 11-2-1.  The year before that, from Jan. 13 to Feb. 18, they went 15-0-2.

With Ryan Whitney now practicing and Marc-Andre Fleury’s status upgraded, along with Sergei Gonchar likely to get back to practice, that kind of run can still happen.  In the next few games, though, they need to figure out how to get it done.

With four games in the next six days, three of which are divisional matchups, now is the time.  Tonight against Buffalo would be a nice place to start.

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