Winning Atlantic within Penguins' grasp
By Josh Yohe
Published: Saturday, March 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
One thing they haven't done since 2008 is raise an Atlantic Division banner.
That oddity appears likely to change by the end of April.
The Penguins are running away with the Atlantic Division – they currently lead the New Jersey Devils by nine points – and, with eight of their next nine games at home, have an opportunity to put away the race during the next two weeks.
“It would be nice,” center Sidney Crosby said. “We've been in this situation a couple of times where we had good years but didn't end up getting one of the top spots. We should keep that in mind.”
The Penguins have been the No. 4 seed during each of the past four NHL postseasons. That position worked out perfectly in 2009, when they emerged from the Eastern Conference playoff battle and won the Stanley Cup.
However, the Penguins would much prefer to take their 2008 path to the Stanley Cup Final, when they were the No. 2 seed and enjoyed home-ice advantage in each of their first three series that spring. They went ahead of the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, 2-0, respectively, in each of those meetings.
“Home ice is really important,” Crosby said. “This is something we need to maintain.”
Powered largely by their seven-game winning streak, the Penguins have pulled away from the usually rigorous Atlantic Division field.
While the Penguins' 20-8-0 record speaks for itself, the division has not been as potent as in previous seasons.
New Jersey has slipped with goaltender Martin Brodeur injured and sits nine points behind the Penguins. The Rangers – they'll visit the Penguins on Saturday at 1 p.m. – entered the season as co-favorites with the Penguins for the division crowd but have stumbled to a 13-11-2 record, and sit 12 points out of first.
Philadelphia, another annual contender, finds itself in last place with only 25 points.
“We're in a good position right now and we've just got to keep going,” left wing Tanner Glass said. “Winning the division isn't the ultimate goal, but it's the first step, and it's a big step. You want the division, conference title and the President's Trophy in the regular season.”
The words “President's Trophy” haven't been uttered around the Penguins' locker room this season because of the Chicago Blackhawks' dominance and because, frankly, the team is well aware that winning the overall regular-season standings does not often translate well to postseason success.
Still, the Penguins are only seven points behind the Blackhawks for the most in hockey.
“That's doable,” Glass said. “That roll we're on, we feel like anything's doable.”
With a victory against the Rangers on Saturday, the Penguins would pull 14 points ahead of the team expected to battle with them for the division crown. One day later, Boston visits Consol Energy Center for the second time in five days, and the Penguins could finish off a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Bruins – the team they may battle for the No. 1 seed – with a win.
“Obviously this is a big weekend,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said. “Winning the division is definitely something we want to accomplish.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins center Sutter is thriving despite unsettled 3rd line
- Penguins’ Neal apologizes, vows to be better
- Penguins notebook: Thousands pack Consol for practice
- Penguins players are not out looking for fights
- Penguins’ Neal suspended five games for Marchand hit
- Rossi: Penguins’ Orpik among select NHLers going without gluten
- Penguins’ Orpik out; Neal to have phone hearing
- Baby Penguins notebook: Goaltenders find their places in system
- Penguins have never been better on power play
- Penguins notebook: Dumoulin gets his chance
- Penguins notebook: Malkin to miss 2nd straight game Saturday