OUT OF THE GATES: December to remember

When the 2009-10 schedule was released, this stretch leading up to the holiday break stuck out to me as a time where the Penguins would prove themselves.

They haven’t disappointed.

After dropping back to back home games against Chicago and Carolina, the Penguins have strung together five straight wins. Most recently they took care of Philadelphia — which is always difficult given the rivalry — in a home and home series and then traveled to Buffalo and won in a shootout, 2-1.

In one week the Penguins have proven they are every bit as good as last year, if not better. And with games against New Jersey tonight and Ottawa on Wednesday, the Penguins can enter the three-day holiday break playing their strongest hockey of the year.

What’s scary is Pittsburgh has shown they still have a lot of improving to do.

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The challengers

For the Penguins to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, they’ll have to fight through some tough competition.

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The Atlantic Division is always stacked and this season should be no different. The proof is there: The Pens have just one division championship in the last 11 seasons.

And then there’s the rest of the East.

For the Penguins to get through the grind of the regular season and earn home ice in the playoffs, they’ll have to beat out not only a tough division but the rest of the Eastern Conference as well.

Here are my top 5 challengers to the Penguins for the Eastern Conference crown.

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Weekly Rant: This is where the fun starts!

Weekly Rant
Weekly Rant

So here’s the deal: it’s been a long time since we’ve had a new post on here.

But I’ve gotta be honest in saying that we weren’t gonna give you anything new.  Whatever myself or Dan could have written would have been the same crap you were getting everywhere else.

We all knew how big the last two to three weeks of the season were.  If you didn’t, you’re not really a fan — plain and simple.  Every newspaper, blog and critic around town let it be known.

But the Pens made it and earned home-ice in the first round thanks to the Flyers royally screwing themselves.  They would.

So it’s on to the playoffs.  The second season!!!  Here’s my prediction on how the first round will shape up …

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Previewing Pens @ Devils, Dec. 26

All I want for Christmas is a win.

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New Jersey Devils

Actually, scratch that — a good win.  A great win! … Now I’ve got it: All I want for Christmas is to see the Pens play a full 60 minutes of hockey.

As much as the Pens (18-12-4, 40 pts.) have underachieved lately, frustrating most of the fanbase, they are only one point behind the New Jersey Devils (19-10-3, 41 pts.) for third place in the Atlantic.  And, they are just five points behind Philadelphia and seven behind the Rangers.

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Pens lose in Buffalo, look to rebound against Devils

In a reverse of what has seemingly become Pittsburgh’s trademark this season, the Penguins lost 4-3 after a 3-2 advantage going in to the third period.

The Sabres’ Drew Stafford and Paul Gaustad each tallied goals in the final frame to push Buffalo to the win.  Gaustad netted the game-winner at the 16:36 mark and was a product of constant pressure in front of the Penguins’ rookie goaltender John Curry.

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