Gameday 48 and 49: Frozen Tundra(s)

There are few better ways to start the post-All-Star segment of the regular season schedule than how the Pittsburgh Penguins played in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the visiting Winnipeg Jets. Kris Letang got Pittsburgh on the board first with a backhander that likely made Sidney Crosby proud. Then, in response to Brendan Dillon’s match penalty of an illegal check to the head of Noel Acciari, the Penguins got not just one but two goals on the five minute power play. Neither goal was especially pretty, but regardless more of what the doctor ordered with Jeff Carter and the second unit getting the first goal and Bryan Rust getting one for the first unit as well. (A 200% power play conversion rate, in this economy?!) Finally, it was Tristan Jarry out-dueling likely Vezina nominee Connor Hellebuyck to notch his League-leading sixth shutout of the year.

Beatin’ Helly like a rented Buck

That’s the rhythm of the Pittsburgh Penguins these days: the highest of the highs one day, the lowest of the lows soon afterwards. Here’s hoping the lows don’t return soon (if ever), because the Penguins need all the wins they can get. One of these days they’re going to catch the rest of the Metropolitan Division napping and surge up the standings, but (at least on Tuesday night) their rivals from Philadelphia and New Jersey also won so the trio remain in lockstep as they all work their way towards a playoff spot. Working in Pittsburgh’s favor is the fact that they have up to four games in hand on their foes, a consequence of the number of longer breaks they’ve had thus far this season. They will obviously catch up with that eventually, but not until March. In the near-term they have a pair of back-to-backs over the next week: tonight and tomorrow against Minnesota and Winnipeg, then Wednesday and Thursday against Florida and Chicago.

29 4 EVA <3

The last time before Tuesday that the Penguins scored two goals in a game was on December 18 in their 4-3 win over the Wild. Since then Minnesota has gone 9-10-1 as they have struggled to keep up in what has quickly become a very polarized Western Conference. The Wild now sit in seventh and a whopping 18 points behind the Jets for third in the Central Division, and although they are a more reasonable seven points away from a Wild Card spot, they are the last of five teams seriously chasing Nashville for that spot.

They have been without captain Jared Spurgeon since January 2, and it was just announced that he will be out for the rest of the season as he recovers from hip surgery which was performed on Tuesday and then back surgery in a month. It’s all pretty disappointing for a Minnesota team that has been spinning its wheels for years now. The current situation seems pretty hopeless and I would not be surprised if general manager Bill Guerin starts trying to move whatever he can at the deadline. (It’s sounding increasingly likely that Guerin, approaching the end of his fifth season in charge of the Wild, might be finding himself out of a job soon.)