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Penguins Perspectives: The Leftovers

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Welcome to Penguins Perspectives, a weekly column by KDKA-TV Digital Producer Patrick Damp. Each Monday, Patrick will talk about the week that was, the week to come, what to watch for, and more.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this morning's Penguins Perspectives is going to be just what the headline says – the leftovers.

These are just a scattered collection of thoughts and observations surrounding the Penguins that are relevant but not enough to write an entire column on.

Plus, don't kid yourself, leftovers are arguably the best part of Thanksgiving.

Let's dig in.

Super Sidney

Maybe I've become desensitized to Crosby's greatness because it's just become a baked-in part of the Penguins and the National Hockey League.

At age 35 Sidney Crosby leads all skaters in even strength points with 24. Out of 29 total.

In other words, when the game is played at even strength, Sidney Crosby rules.

If we were expecting him to slow down any time soon, it ain't happening. Crosby's season has been truly a microcosm of his career. When the Penguins needed him most, he showed up.

When the Penguins began their recent five-game winning streak, it was Sidney Crosby leading the way. In three road games, the captain racked up three goals, and seven assists for 10 points on that swing.

The last win of the five-game streak also saw Crosby take his spot in history, surpassing Mario Lemieux as the leading scorer against the hated-Philadelphia Flyers, his count being his 52nd against the black and orange.

Matthews, McDavid, Eichel, and the rest of the young guns will have their time, but it's still Crosby's league.

Killing It!

The Penguins now find their penalty kill in the top 10 of the National Hockey League at 81.4.

In the past 15 games, the Penguins have been shorthanded 45 times and surrendered just six power-play goals, good for around 86 percent.

Some of that is a return of Teddy Blueger, a tremendous penalty-killing forward, but most of it is that the Penguins have received both solid goaltending from Jarry and DeSmith as well as pressuring teams at the point of attack and forcing them to make mistakes.

While Saturday night's matchup with Toronto was by all accounts a beatdown, it was their third matchup already this season, and last, to be fair, the penalty kill went three-for-three.

In fact, in three games against the high-powered Leafs, the Penguins' PK held them to just one goal in seven attempts.

A penalty kill facing good offenses in Toronto, Calgary, and Boston during this stretch and holding them off the scoresheet or just keeping damage to a minimum is a good sign.

Can they just decline?

Now, on the other side, the power play remains a problem.

The Penguins still sit near the bottom of the league, scoring at just a 16.7 percent success rate.

It appeared that things were about to turn around when they met the Minnesota Wild a couple of weeks ago and managed to score two power-play goals in a 6-4 win. That's exactly what you would want from your power play, to be the difference maker in the game. Take away the two power-play tallies and it's 4-4.

Since that matchup on November 17, the Penguins have had 12 power plays in five games and have failed to score on any of them.

What I will say in their favor is as of late, the power play has changed personnel with Jeff Petry getting a look alongside Kris Letang on the top unit and that has increased their shot volume.

As I highlighted in an earlier Penguins Perspectives, that's one way to keep it simple and get out of this funk.

If the Penguins want to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and keep their postseason streak alive, they'll need to start producing with the man advantage.

Hit the road, Jack

Dorothy may have said "There's no place like home" but for these Penguins, there is no place like away from home.

Shoutout to Josh Taylor, who during my recent appearance on 93.7 called the Penguins Brian James aka The Road Dogg, because the team is decidedly average at home, but a force as of late on the road.

In their last seven road games, the team is 6-0-1, stacking wins against Washington, Toronto, Minnesota, Winnipeg, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Sure, a couple of duds in there, but overall, teams are supposed to struggle a bit on the road, but with the Penguins playing a simplified game away from PPG, they're finding success.

That said, the friendly confines of PPG Paints Arena have been mixed.

Overall the team sits at 4-3-1 and 1-3-1 in the month of November thus far.

Simply put, improve that record at home and we're in good shape.

Malice in the Metro

I usually think the NHL's need to get everyone playing everyone at least once and then backloading the schedule with divisional matchups is silly, especially since the NHL is hopelessly dedicated to "parity" (abolish the loser point or adopt a three-point system, but different column for a different day) but this year it's shaping up to be a smart move.

Traditional wisdom tells us that if a team is in a playoff spot come American Thanksgiving, chances are they'll make the playoffs.

Going into Friday's matchup with the Flyers the Penguins were just a point on the outside so they were very much in the hunt.

As of Sunday, they're tied with the Lightning, who have two games in hand, for the two wild-card spots, and the Rangers are just one point out.

They're also just two points out of third in the Metropolitan Division, trailing Carolina.

New Jersey's unreal start, winning 13 straight, has made them essentially a lock to make the postseason baring an absolutely historic collapse, so that means the Penguins, Islanders, Hurricanes, Rangers, and maybe the Capitals are fighting for three spots. Second and third in the division and a wild card spot.

The Penguins have 60 games to go in this season and 22 of those 60 will be against the Metropolitan Division.

With five teams fighting for what looks to be five spots, the rest of the season is of vital importance.

The division has been a fight since its inception in 2013-14 and this year is looking no different.

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