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Penguins are showing signs they won’t be overlooked come playoff time

Chicago and Los Angeles may perhaps have fallen by the wayside, victims of waiting way too extensive in advance of knowing their glory times are above. But the Pittsburgh Penguins are even now critically in the combine and likely for it, and as extensive as Sidney Crosby is there that will practically unquestionably keep on to be the scenario.

General supervisor Jim Rutherford produced that crystal apparent Friday.

Nick Bjugstad, the six-foot-six centre acquired from Florida on Friday, gives Pittsburgh size in the middle behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Nick Bjugstad, the 6-foot-6 centre obtained from Florida on Friday, gives Pittsburgh sizing in the center driving Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.  (Icon Sportswire / GETTY Visuals)

Derick Brassard, who was meant to be the respond to down the center for the Penguins at final winter’s trade deadline but in no way was, was packaged to disappointing-still-all over again Florida in a multi-player offer for towering pivot Nick Bjugstad, as soon as assumed of as a Panther untouchable.

In idea, the 6-foot-6 Bjugstad has all the makings of a No. 1 centre in the NHL. In observe, he’s seldom been healthier ample to establish no matter whether he can be. The Penguins, practically perfect at Nos. 1 and 2 with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, are betting he can, and that he will be portion of returning them to the winner’s circle this spring right after a disappointing ouster at the arms of Washington final spring.

Is the 26-12 months-outdated Bjugstad the respond to? Will he be better than Brassard? It is as a great deal a projection as a certainty. But Rutherford was not about to stand even now and wait. He in no way does.

Interestingly, the offer arrived on the heels of a significant victory for the Penguins, a 4-2 triumph at residence on Wednesday in opposition to league-main Tampa Bay.

You might have heard about that unique recreation at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, albeit for diverse factors. The actual match, as it turned out, was overshadowed as a news celebration by an intriguing off-ice episode in which veteran hockey analyst Pierre McGuire was criticized for his condescending feedback (mansplaining) towards U.S. female hockey star Kendall Coyne Schofield.

McGuire, joined by Coyne Schofield between the benches on a national U.S. broadcast, 1st instructed her which finish which crew was at — picture doing that to say, Jack Eichel as a rookie broadcaster in the identical situation — and then urged the American Olympic star to be an analyst, not a “fan.”

Oh boy.

Nicely, of study course McGuire was patronizing Coyne Schofield. The vast majority of males in pro hockey appear down their noses at the women’s recreation. I signify, they don’t even struggle, ideal? Consequently the widespread “surprise” expressed by NHL gamers and media at Coyne Schofield’s skating talent in the all-star abilities levels of competition final weekend.

McGuire kind of apologized the following working day, and Coyne Schofield issued her possess assertion insisting McGuire respects her as an athlete, but added “If I had been watching it at residence and observed a guy say this to a lady athlete, I would have been offended.”

All in all, the continent-huge focus the entire kerfuffle attracted in all probability just goes to present you how meaningful folks see NHL outcomes in the dog times of January. The Pens-Lightning recreation took a back seat.

Even now, it was a very welcome triumph for the Penguins, all over again highlighting the most persuasive aspect of this crew as it drops in for a visit to Toronto on Saturday evening.

Pittsburgh’s achieved core team — Crosby, Malkin, Phil Kessel, defenceman Kris Letang and goalie Matt Murray — is as achieved a foundation as there exists in the activity. The team seemed specially energized and competitive in opposition to Tampa Bay.

They seemed like they missed lifting the significant trophy final spring.

All but Murray are in their thirties now, and all have many championships. Review that to Toronto’s a great deal younger team, which is Auston Matthews (21), Mitch Marner (21), John Tavares (28), Morgan Rielly (24) and Freddie Andersen (29). None have a Cup ring. Collectively they don’t equal Crosby’s complete of 160 Stanley Cup playoff games.

The Leafs’ core has seemed very excellent on quite a few events. But the playoffs is where by this core has to arrive by. Saturday evening, the Leafs’ fivesome receives to establish itself in opposition to the finest.

Toronto produced its significant roster transfer this week by selecting up defenceman Jake Muzzin, an addition that should add Cup-level experience and zone-exit talent to the Leaf defence. Now Pittsburgh has produced a similarly substantive transfer to handle a vulnerability, and the rest of the East has to be paying out focus.

Rutherford has been hectic all season. He traded speedster Carl Hagelin to L.A. earlier this season for winger Tanner Pearson, and peddled winger Daniel Sprong to Anaheim for depth defenceman Marcus Petterson. Before this week, he dealt defenceman Jamie Oleksiak back to Dallas to absolutely free up some income home.

Bjugstad now receives to fill the hole which Pittsburgh hasn’t been equipped to fill satisfactorily since Nick Bonino remaining for Nashville right after the Penguins gained a 2nd consecutive Cup in 2017. Brassard had been a disappointment in that place, and Rutherford just was not prepared to give the 31-12 months-outdated yet another shot in the playoffs this spring. As an alternative, the Pens have invested two additional yrs and $8.2 million in Bjugstad hoping he can do what Bonino did.

After getting their stab at a three-peat spoiled final spring, it’s just additional proof the Penguins are hungry all over again.

Damien Cox is a former Star athletics reporter who is a present freelance columnist centered in Toronto. Observe him on Twitter: @DamoSpin



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