It’s the 2005-06 NHL season. 26-year-old Joe Thornton leads the league in points. The Atlanta Thrashers are a team. Connor McDavid is 9 years old…And…Oh yeah. Penguins rookie sensation 18-year-old Sidney Crosby is on SportsCenter and virtually every Sports Illustrated magazine as fans christen him “Sid The Kid”.
That 2005-06 season was the last time the Pittsburgh Penguins MISSED the NHL playoffs.
Flash-forward to 2023
Crosby is no longer 18, but he’s pretty much playing like he is. 35-year-old Sidney Crosby leads the Pens in points, goals, assists, and plus/minus (68, 25, 43, 6) this season.
Thus far, this season has been a rollercoaster for the Pens with crushing overtime losses and injuries to the starting goalie Tristan Jarry. It’s been a fiasco, to say the least.
After last night’s loss to the New York Islanders which was the team’s third consecutive loss, the Penguins sit in 5th place in the Metropolitan Division. That loss also knocked them back out of the last remaining wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. Fans are getting increasingly frustrated and there is room for doubt about where this team is headed.
Although, I get the feeling that “room for doubt” is about to disintegrate.
If you’re worried about the Penguins not making the playoffs this year, allow me to tell you why you should stop.
Firstly, the Pens have games in hand of all the teams chasing them, and now above them (as of last night). The Pens sit in 9th place in the Eastern Conference with 63 points through 56 games played. The games in hand will turn out to be huge but what’s more, is that some of the teams chasing the Penguins are going to be without key players for a long time.
Washington Capitals’ leading scorer Alex Ovechkin is out indefinitely as well as a slew of players on the New York Islanders (Mathew Barzal, Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck).
So, the Penguins at least control their own destiny at this point.
Consequently, the NHL trade deadline is about two weeks away on March 3rd. The Penguins’ General Manager Ron Hextall will have a lot to think about in these next couple of weeks. Today, news was released that Penguins defenseman Jeff Petry will be made available to trade. The Pens may be able to beef up their 3rd and 4th lines if they can find a team that requires a veteran defenseman like Petry.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the deal. The Pens have 26 more games to show us what they’ve got.
This Penguins team will probably look a bit different after the deadline (preferably get some 3rd line guys that can score once in a while).
The return of starting goalkeeper Tristan Jarry is also massive for this team. An all-star last year, Jarry has continued to show that he’s one of the best in between the pipes in the league when healthy.
Lastly, Sidney Crosby is one of only a few players in the history of the NHL that can put the team on his back. Crosby is such a fierce competitor that I wouldn’t be surprised if he set personal records in March for points per game or goals per game. That’s what legends do.
The fact of the matter is, the Pens making the playoffs is more likely than them missing the playoffs at this point.