Pittsburgh Penguins Grab #2 Spot in ESPN Power Rankings


The Pittsburgh Penguins surged in this week’s ESPN power rankings, moving up 9 spots to #2 overall.  Hoisted by solid team performances and large margin victories in each of their last four outings, the Penguins seem poised to take their show on the road in what will be a stretch sure to test the durability of the Penguins’ scoring power.

Let’s look at the factors contributing to the Penguins’ 9-spot jump.

Strength of Schedule

The strength of the Penguins’ recent schedule cannot be overstated. In order, the Penguins beat the Nashville Predators (3-0 on October 25), the New Jersey Devils (8-3 on October 28), the Los Angeles Kings (3-0 on October 30), and the Buffalo Sabres (5-0 on November 1).  With the exception of the Sabres, the Penguins’ wins came against strong opponents; the Predators started the season hot, the Devils have one of the premier power plays in the NHL, and the Kings are the defending Stanley Cup champs.  In each of their victories, the Penguins looked unfazed and focused on the win.


In the last four games, the Penguins have outscored their opponents 19-3.  As detailed above, the Penguins high goals-for figure, and perhaps more impressive their low goals-against figure, came against strong opponents.  However, it isn’t just the strength of the Penguins’ opponents that qualifies them for the #2 spot in the power rankings. It is the play of Penguins themselves that has earned this distinction.

With 19 goals in the last four games, listing every goal-scorer and each assist on every scoring play would be simply too burdensome on the reader (and quite frankly, on the author).  However, this is just the type of problem the Penguins like having — points are coming from everywhere.  Of course, the usual suspects Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Chris Kunitz (whose net front presence is astounding) have been racking up the goals. However, newcomers Patrick Hornqvist, Blake Comeau, Steve Downie, Christian Ehrhoff, and Nick Spaling have all gotten on the board and proven their ability to contribute on offense. If the Penguins are able to keep scoring from anywhere and everywhere, it will make game preparation that much more difficult for opponents.


Marc-Andre Fleury has certainly hushed some critics, and is in the process of silencing them altogether.  Earning back-to-back shut outs in the first time of his career, and blanking opponents in three of his last four starts, Fleury is turning heads.  But it isn’t just his shutout numbers that are impressive (though he has earned the #1 spot among NHL goaltenders in this category).  The Flower is also 2nd in wins, 7th in goals-against-average (1.89), and 8th in save percentage (.931).  The true hallmark of Fleury’s stellar performance of late has been his calm demeanor, net-presence, ability to see the puck, and lack of mental errors.


Power Rankings change from week to week, and are most suitably used as a barometer of current performance and a tool to look for trends. However, rankings also tend to follow the hot hand, and hands don’t come much hotter than the Pittsburgh Penguins’ at this point in 2014.  Whether you consider their dominating power play, their increasingly impressive penalty kill, their ability to spread around the puck, or their goal-tending, the Penguins are making the case that they are the team to beat in the NHL.