Statements Are Made, Not Manufactured
It only comes up as game number 69, it only registers two points to the winner, but for a Thursday night regular season game, this could not be more important.
Statements were made for the Penguins on Sunday when they trumped the Bruins in all areas of the game. The Pens won their 9th straight game, pushing their record to 21-4-1 since January 13th. They closed the gap on the East leading Rangers to just six points and still have a game in hand. The red hot Pens though received monumental news recently and plan on continuing their torrid streak.
Paul Martin and Kris Letang are both expected to play on Thursday, but more importantly, so is Sidney Crosby. The Penguins will be at full strength, something we have not been able to say for a very long time. Adding two great puck moving defensemen and the league’s top offensive threat is a huge boost to any team, let alone a team that is already performing well.
But this is a league of what can you do for me now and even though the Pens are riding a big win streak, they need to make a statement. The statement needs to be one of conviction, physicality, and versatility.
The league is now talking about what this Penguins team can do. The GM meetings in Florida show that greatly as rival GM’s of New York and Philly both spoke on the topic of Crosby’s return. Glenn Sather stated “They’re obviously, I think, the best team in the league.” and Paul Holmgren stated “It’s not like they needed help”. The respect is nice, but a win on Thursday makes the real statement.
It will prove that this team is ready for the playoffs. That they can take on the best night after night and win. The Penguins need to show that their great balance (3rd GG, 8th GA, 2nd PK, 6th PP) is actually balanced against all teams. They must show that the will to win is not out of necessity due to injury, but out of their daily routine. The Penguins must show that they are for real and that winning is all that matters.
However, besides all the team talk, Crosby himself must make a statement. Sid is set to play on a line with Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy. The line-up is strange, but the reasoning is perfect. Sid is only going to play 15 minutes and if he were to play with anyone else, he would most likely rack up close to 20. Crosby’s statement is simple. He must return to being a glorified grinder and a prolific set up man, but only for the time being.
But Pittsburgh isn’t the only team playing tomorrow. The New York Rangers are looking to regain their top team form. After a stretch of poor offense, the new top line of Gaborik – Richards – Hagelin has the Rangers scoring again. The Rangers are looking to show the league that their little funk was nothing more than that, a funk. To regain the power in the East and sew up home ice advantage is all on the line and the Rangers will not pass on any opportunity to prove that.
Statements are sure to be made on Thursday. One team will rise in the standings and one will stay put, but the way this game is played out will undoubtedly prove who the top team in the East is.
In tune with the rest of the article, statements in this league can be just as important as wins. The date 1/13/12 was a statement for the Pens. It marked the end of a 6 game losing streak. It marked the start of a 21-4-1 record, but most importantly it was a statement to their team. All players on that day wore a tape C on their jersey in response to an article written that the Pens were looking for an interim captain. The statement was one of unity, support, and that their captain was and will be none other than Sidney Crosby. It might seem silly, but this team changed that day. They changed their season with just one small statement, imagine what kind of statement can be made tomorrow with the return of their C.