Pittsburgh Penguins: From Curses To Versus, the Team Gets Back To Winning Ways

Mark LeskoCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2010

How great was that right hook Engelland landed? Amazing!
How great was that right hook Engelland landed? Amazing!Jamie Sabau/Getty Images


That is the Pittsburgh Penguins' regular season record on the TV network Versus since the 2006-2007 season. That includes an 0-3 record on Versus so far this year.

Now I know it seems crazy to relate a TV network to a team's poor performances, but like many former athletes, I am very superstitious.

As I watched the Penguins beat down the Phoenix Coyotes 6-1 on Monday night, it just made me think how the Pens always seem to play worse when they are on Versus.

Now 16-16-4 is not a terrible record, but it is not all that great either. The Pens did play poorly last week on Versus against the Rangers and Flyers (taking too many penalties and too many turnovers in their own zone), but is it crazy to think that Versus may have had something to do with it?


Either way, the mini vacation the Penguins had seems to have gotten the Pens back on track.

While Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins' special teams (power play and penalty kill) stole the show. I thought Matt Cooke was one of the most important aspects.

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Not only did Cooke provide a goal and kill penalties for the Pens, but it was a penalty that Cooke committed that may have been most important.

In the second period, with the Penguins leading 5-0 and on the penalty kill, Cooke went in on a forecheck and put a forearm to the head of Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle.

Cooke was sent to the box for two minutes for boarding, and that seemed to be that.

However, after the game the Coyotes were furious with the hit (which in no way appeared dirty to me), and Yandle said, "every guy on our team tried to fight him."

First of all, Coyotes, get off your high horse. You want to talk about dirty plays? How about the slash on Marc-Andre Fleury by Scottie Upshall after the whistle blew? Or the slashes to the back of Malkin's legs when the puck was nowhere near him?

Second, mission accomplished for Cooke. From that point on the whole Coyotes team was focused on trying to get him (as stated by Mr. Yandle) instead of the Pens' superstars like Crosby, Malkin and Fleury. That is exactly what the Pens need because teams have started to get very physical and dirty with Crosby and Malkin.

A guy like Cooke, whether you hate him or not, is exactly the type of player the superstars love. He takes all the attention and has no problem doing so. Cooke loves being hated, and it's that attitude that will help keep Crosby and Malkin safe, especially in blowout games.

Side note to Keith Yandle: You are insane to think Cooke should be suspended for five games. That's right, folks—Yandle thinks Cooke should be suspended five games for that second period hit.

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