Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Penguins set to resurface

With a little under two months left in the regular season, things have begun to heat up in NHL. The race to the playoffs is in full swing, and many teams have made some drastic changes that might be enough to boost them into a coveted playoff spot.

One team that stirred up some commotion in the past few weeks has been the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins had thus far not lived up to the team of the 2007-2008 season. Michel Therrien, the coach that had pulled the Penguins out from the ashes had seemingly lost his way behind the bench.

Less than 24 hours after Pittsburgh lost a heartbreaking Valentine’s Day game against the Toronto Maple Leafs by a deficit of four goals, General Manager Ray Shero gave Therrien the pink slip.
Despite his overall impressive record with the Penguins, Therrien simply could have lost the connection with his players. He was always a tough coach, who never minced his words. While expecting the best is always a good thing, the negativity that most likely filled the Penguins locker room couldn’t have helped an already struggling team.

A day after Therrien was fired; Shero announced that the Penguins new interim head coach would be 38-year-old Dan Blysma. Blysma had been the head coach of the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and comes with the reputation of being a player’s coach. So far, his aggressive play approach seems to be working, as the Penguins are 6-1-1, and currently on a four game winning streak.

Shero created even more waves when he traded defenseman Ryan Whitney for Anaheim Ducks forward Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi. Ryan Whitney had been one of Penguins key players, and a part of the new generation that the team was centered around.

Kunitz’s speed and ability to get the puck to the net makes him a valuable asset to a team whose star players have been having scoring inconsistencies. Kunitz has already impressed many, and is on a streak himself having gotten at least one point in the past four games.

Don’t count this year’s team out yet because with a couple new faces the floundering Penguins may have been revived.

~ Saralyn Norkus, LC hockey analyst

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