Pittsburgh Penguins Weekly Roundup: 5 Points on the Pens

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Mar 28, 2014; Columbus, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) checks Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout (47) at Nationwide Arena. The Penguins won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

5. The Penguins have bite (finally).

One of the most notable shifts in the Penguins’ identity this season is their mean streak. Accused over the last few seasons of being soft, Pittsburgh seems keen on never flirting with that accusation again, as they’ve added a significant physical edge to their play.

That edge was on display against the New York Islanders on Saturday, as we saw the Penguins show something that was missing last season – confrontation.

Late in the second period, Crosby clipped Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak while skating by him, prompting some pushing and shoving from New York D-man Travis Hamonic. Steve Downie wasted no time getting involved, skating over to get in Hamonic’s face and chirping him endlessly as the refs pushed the two apart. Downie continued to send a message in the third with a bone-shaking hit that prompted a brawl, continuing to get the Islanders off their game.

Pittsburgh has been missing this confrontational element since they lost Matt Cooke to free agency a few seasons ago. Say what you will about Cooke, but he did his part for this team and helped bring the Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh.

With Downie filling that role once again, the Penguins of the present aren’t afraid to be in your face. He isn’t alone either, as the Pens now have Hornqvist skating bullishly around the ice, crashing the crease and throwing his weight around.

Veteran Chris Kunitz is getting in on the action as well, as the forward currently ranks among the top 5 in the league in hits with 23.

With Hornqvist and Kunitz leading the way for the top-six, and Downie, Comeau and Sill doing the same for the bottom six, Pittsburgh is getting healthy doses of physicality all through their lineup – just another tool that will make them a harder team to get through come playoff time.