Pens Start Hot–But Is It All For Not?

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There are many words available to describe the play of the Pittsburgh Penguins after one month.

Marvelous, unbelievable, clutch, composed, etc.

That will often be the case when a team cruises to an 11-3-0 record in October and sits atop the league in the standings.

But Penguins fans should curb their enthusiasm.

If memory has failed you, last year’s Mighty ‘Guins jumped out to the best start in franchise history.

Remember that first rematch game against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena? The game where the Penguins came back from what seemed like a three touchdown deficit before winning, 7-6, in overtime?

Or how about many similar examples during their hot start?

They have resolve! Cardiac kids! These guys just know how to win!

Weren’t those the labels attached to the team last season? Aren’t those strikingly similar to the ones we’re hearing this year?

It appears as if…

So, let’s not forget the out-of-nowhere tumble the Penguins endured from November to February when Dan “Jesus” Bylsma came to the rescue.

Did injuries plague the team? Absolutely.

But the talk among players then revolved around the idea that the team was winning games it wasn’t supposed to and that that finally caught up with them.

A come-from-behind effort here and there; a one-period offensive explosion; a 4-on-3 power-play in overtime or a shootout victory were the more common ways the Penguins got two points at the end of a given night.

“Yeah, but that was then and this is now!”

But is now that much different than then?

Should the Penguins have come away with two points recently against Columbus? Not a chance.

How about against Florida back on Oct. 23, when they trailed by two goals entering the third period? Or the New York Islanders in the second game of the season, when they didn’t arrive until the third period?

Couple those lethargic, yet victorious, efforts with dreadful performances against the Phoenix Coyotes earlier in the year and the New Jersey Devils a few games later, and all of a sudden it’s not out of the realm of possibility to suggest the team has some pressing issues.

Does winning games despite poor efforts suggest a team is that much stronger? Sometimes.

Do good teams get lucky more often? Yes.

Do the players work hard for their bounces? Surely.

But after one month, players have routinely suggested that they haven’t brought their best game to the table just yet, at least not consistently–a sentiment uttered all too often during last season’s impressive start.

There is little doubt that this group is more talented, mature, composed and prepared to overcome sluggish efforts than that of last year’s, but there is something fishy with the way things have gone.

November was last year’s achilles heal. This November, the team begins with a four-game road trip.

The team, at 11-3-0, is pretty darn great, for the record.

But we’ll soon see if greatness is temporary, a la last year.

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