Weekly Rant: A December to forget

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My Rant

I think that fans think the Penguins are in better shape than they really are.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and seventh place in the Eastern Conference.  They can’t win at home and are in the midst of their worst streak of hockey since last season.

This all came to its climax on Saturday night when the Pens lost to Toronto — a team that is rebuilding and is struggling to hover around .500 on the season.

Sidney Crosby cant find the net, the two best defensemen are out and the Pens are relying on Wilkes-Barre to fill a multitude of roster spots.

Somehow this team finds itself with mid-season injury woes seemingly every year.  And, somehow, this team finds a way to get around it and continue to win games.

That trend is in jeopardy.

Since the start of December, the Penguins are 3-5-1.  Just one of those three wins came against an Atlantic Division opponent (Islanders) as compared to three of the losses (Rangers, Devils, Flyers).

On top of that, the Devils and Flyers are in the midst of hot streaks.  Both are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.

Philadelphia Flyers winger Mike Knuble (22) scores a goal on the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Dany Sabourin (30) as the Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton (7) pressures and the Flyers winger Simon Gagne (12) waits for a rebound during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 13, 2008. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES)
Philadelphia Flyers winger Mike Knuble (22) scores a goal on the Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Dany Sabourin (30) as the Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton (7) pressures and the Flyers winger Simon Gagne (12) waits for a rebound during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 13, 2008. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES)

After Saturday’s loss the team was obviously down.  None of the players had anything positive to say after the game and they shouldn’t have.  So where do they go from here?

If the last two years have any relevance to this season, things should turn around.

Last year the Pens were 2-7-1 through 10 games in the month of November.  They then won the last three games of the month and were back on track.

Two years ago, the month of December was unkind to the Pens.  Pittsburgh went 5-7-1, but turned it around to go 8-2-2 in January.

Will it happen again this year?  We can hope so, but the reality is that not much points in that direction.

Marc-Andre Fleury is back in net but didn’t show us anything on Saturday.  He will turn it around … hopefully quickly.

Ryan Whitney is back on Tuesday against Tampa Bay and it will be interesting to see how he plays and how big of a difference his presence will make.  Whitney will take time to become the same player he was in the past.

Sergei Gonchar is gone until March so that isn’t even worth hoping for right now.  What is worth hoping for is the past to become the present.

If you look at last season again, the start of 2008 was the start of something good.  From the new year until the end of the regular season Pittsburgh went 27-11-6.  The season before last, the Pens went 31-9-5 during that time.

It’s more important on how you finish than how you start.  And with the Penguins’ record as it is right now, 17-11-4, it’s not a bad starting point.  There are five games left in 2008 and now is the best time to start a winning streak.

The next two opponents, at Buffalo and Tampa Bay, are below the Pens in the standings and are perfect chances to right the ship.  Although, so was Toronto and we saw that debacle.

Four more points would be nice before games against New Jersey, Montreal and Boston.

Chris | PPT

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