Pittsburgh Takes The Next Step Towards Being Great

It is official. The Pittsburgh Penguins have found a new gear under head coach Mike Johnston.

Nothing is a greater proof of this than their last four games, of which, they have won by a combined score of 19-3. They shut out the Predators, Kings, and Sabres; while scoring 8 goals against the Devils in the process.

It took just one month but the Pittsburgh Penguins are the most dominant team in the league.

They have a plus 19 goal differential on the season, leading the league in goals for with 4.10 goals per game. Their power play has a success rate of 41.9% with 18 goals on 43 chances.

Defensively the Penguins are again one of the best in the league. Their 2.20 goals against average is good enough for eleventh in the league and their penalty kill is ninth. The Pens have not allowed a power play goal since Tyler Seguin’s game winning goal in the dying seconds of an October 16th game.

The good news for Pittsburgh is that they are looking to get a bit of depth back into the system. Robert Bortuzzo is cleared to play and will return to the lineup on Tuesday night. Beau Bennett has been sent to the WBS Penguins for a conditioning stint and will likely join the Penguins in New York or Toronto next week.

Bennett is expected to start out on the third line with Brandon Sutter. His scoring ability is still second to his play making abilities, making him a good fit with a shooter like Brandon Sutter. The hope is that once healthy, Bennett makes the jump to the second line with Evgeni Malkin.

Biggest Surprises

Patrick Hornqvist – With six goals and eight assists in just ten games, Hornqvist is well on his way to setting career highs across the board. He is a physical player who lives in front of the net and has not strayed away from that game.

Hornqvist is a perfect fit with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. They have combined for 20 goals in ten games and continue to dominate puck possession whenever they take the ice.

Simon Despres – The hope was Simon Despres would be given a chance to make a name for himself this season. He was given such a chance and has taken full advantage of it. Four assists, a +- of plus four, 37 hits, and 13 blocked shots is certainly a great spread for a number five defender.

He has done this while only averaging 13 and a half minutes per game. Despres has finally lived up to the billing and the hope is that he has just scratched the surface of his potential.

Blake Comeau – Traveler, journeyman, plug and play are all synonymous with Comeau’s style and career. As of now he is a second liner with Evgeni Malkin and making the most of it. He has three goals and four assists in ten games. While he isn’t likely to stay at this spot all season, he could easily pot 15 goals by the All-Star break, making his $700,000 salary an absolute steal.

Olli Maatta – Best wishes to Penguins 20 year old stand out defender Olli Maatta who is currently undergoing treatment for a tumor on his thyroid gland. Olli is expected to miss roughly a month of action, but could return as soon as two weeks.

Pittsburgh heads onto the road for a five game stretch spanning 10 days and will see them play the Wild on Tuesday, making one of the best early match ups of this season.