I mean, not really too much to say. The Nashville Predators came into the Steel City and were looking to move up in the standings and they were just stopped dead in their tracks. Don’t get it twisted, the Predators are a really good young talented hockey team but the Penguins are just playing that ridiculously good right now. It’s bordering on unfair right now and with the two points tonight it move the Penguins into the playoffs, officially. Good times.
I am not really sure if it is even up for discussion who is going to win the Hart Trophy for league MVP. I thought before tonight that things were pretty much wrapped up for Evgeni Malkin but after tonight I think it is signed, sealed and delivered. Malkin scored a pair of goals tonight, the second of which was an absolute laser, and was all over the ice. He now has 45 goals on the season with nine games left. I didn’t really think Malkin could get to 50 but with seven goals in the last five games he made that a pretty realistic option.
On the other side of the fence you had a guy like James Neal who is fresh off a hat trick against Winnipeg and has been known for his goal scoring ability. Well, he didn’t score a goal tonight but he did pick up four assists on the Penguins five goals. At the time I am writing this Neal is now tied for fourth in the league with 76 points. Not too bad for just a goal scorer and someone who couldn’t do anything right after the trade last year.
I am not really sure what Marc Andre Fleury has to do to get the recognition around the league but he has been one of the best of the year at his position. With the win tonight he now has 40 wins which is the second time in his career he has done so. Now, I know that shootout wins might skew the goaltender statistics when it comes to win but he has been just outstanding. Tonight he got a lot of goal support but still was still on top of his game and only gave up one goal on 30 shots. The goal he gave up there wasn’t much he could do about but he was in position and didn’t give Nashville a shot at all to get into the game. Just another good performance from a goaltender that will never get the recognition that he deserves.
The secondary scoring continues to come as Pascal Dupuis and Matt Cooke each tallied a goal. It was the 22nd for Dupuis and the 17th for Cooke. Remember when the Penguins were getting no secondary scoring? Now it seems like it is a competition to see who can score more goals, the secondary scoring or the primary scoring.
To be perfectly honest with everyone this game was a lot closer than the four goal differential. The Predators got off to a slow start but once they finally got it kicked in (after the Penguins were up 2-0) they were giving the Penguins all they could handle. The Predators actually missed a ton of open opportunities but you could definitely see that they are a talented hockey team that could make some noise in the Western Conference. Pekka Rinne wasn’t very good but he seems to be going through a little bit of a bad stretch. He will pick it back up.
The Penguins now lead the league in both goals scored and goal differential. Honest to God guys I am looking for things that the Penguins could improve on but I really am coming up blank. It has been a pretty long time since we have seen a team so keyed in and it is just so much fun to watch. Big pair of games this weekend. With the Rangers and Flyers continuing to win it is imperative that the Penguins continue to collect points. Going to be a fun stretch run.