Well, the least that could be said about this past season for the Pittsburgh Penguins is that it was a rollercoaster of a ride. The Penguins had their ups and downs all year.
They could never seem to find the winning formula to put together a nice winning streak. They would win a few games and then lose a few games. Goaltending was inconsistent, the power-play struggled, and injuries plagued the team all year.
However, by the end of the trade deadline, the Penguins had been made over, bringing in a new head coach in Dan Bylsma, and bringing in some key forwards: Kunitz, Guerin, and Adams.
They were also able to get rid of Ryan Whitney, who did not seem to play a very strong game at defense, allowing for Kris Letang to re-enter the lineup, and giving some much needed puck handling and offensive prowess on the point.
Let's not forget that veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar also returned to the lineup around this same time and has helped in getting the Penguins' power-play back into sync, even though it has seemed to struggle as of late.
After a difficult road traveled for the Penguins, it has seemed that they found the light at the end of the tunnel. They have started to play the type of hockey that we as fans were used to seeing last year.
The Penguins seem to be playing with a lot more speed on offense, hitting the opposition quickly and hard, and putting a lot of rubber on the net.
Defensively, they have started to look a lot stronger and confident. Young defenseman Kris Letang has showed great speed and puck handling, and the confidence to carry the puck through the neutral zone and attack.
Another defenseman that has stepped up as well from the beginning of the year is Mark Eaton. He did not look so good at the beginning of the year and found himself with baby Penguins often.
Now, though, he has gotten himself into a daily starting spot and has shown that he has earned and deserves to be playing every night in the NHL.
Goaltender Marc-Andres Fleury had been sketchy all season long. He would look great, winning two or three games in a row, but then he would look like he did not know what he was doing, and would lose two or three in a row.
He has, though, played great hockey over the last 20 odd games. He looks like the Stanley Cup goalie we all watched last year, who helped take the Penguins to the Cup, only falling two games short of a championship.
His confidence and key performances over the last eight games of the regular season will determine whether or not the Penguins are able to make yet another run to the Stanley Cup Finals.
People always say that seasons are not sprints to the finish but marathons where teams need to pace themselves in order to finish the race.
Well, right now that marathon is down to the final stretch, and it is time to see teams make that sprint to the finish.
Hopefully, the Penguins have enough energy left in the tank to cross that finish line in the top eight of the Eastern Conference.
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