Gameday 29: Cautious Optimism

Baby steps, and ever so cautiously as the Pittsburgh Penguins have cobbled together a two-game winning streak for the first time since mid-November with wins in back-to-back games. Not only do they have a two-game winning streak, but the Penguins have also strung together consecutive games with power play goals for the first time since October turned into November (and positively feasting with two each!). They have needed each one of those power play goals, as Pittsburgh’s even strength numbers have been regressing over the past several weeks (likely coincident with the injuries to key players), but at least for the moment it appears that things are turning in the right direction with the power play.

Ruined by pussy!

It’s also an encouraging sign that the Penguins last two wins have featured comebacks: they fell behind (albeit briefly) against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday before putting two unanswered goals behind Connor Ingram (plus one into an empty net), then on Wednesday they went into the second period down 3-1 to the Montreal Canadiens, but Alex Nedeljkovic stopped the bleeding and the power play came to the Penguins’ rescue. While Pittsburgh has the second-worst record (.500) in the League when leading after one period, they are tied with two other teams to have the second-best record (also .500) when trailing after one period. The Penguins are hanging in there, baby, just two points behind the crowded field for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, as they approach a mixed group of opponents in the last two weeks of 2023.

First up is the second game of three this season against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the first was a last-minute 3-2 win for Pittsburgh on Thanksgiving Eve; then Monday hosting a surprisingly-not-good Minnesota Wild team before the Carolina Hurricanes come into town on Thursday. The Penguins then head back to Ontario to face the last-in-the-Atlantic-Division Ottawa Senators next Saturday. A few days off for Christmas, then Pittsburgh visits the New York Islanders before hosting the St. Louis Blues and the Islanders back-to-back on December 30 and New Year’s Eve. All of these opponents are all over the map, which should make for an interesting conclusion to the year.