BROOKLYN – Don’t look now, but here come the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Once left for proverbially dead after the crushing six-to-eight week loss of forward Evgeni Malkin due to an upper-body injury, and being on the outside of the NHL’s East Wild Card race, thanks to winning 11 of their last 12 games, Pittsburgh (45-25-8) has gone from being on the outside of the NHL playoffs to second in the entire Eastern Conference with 98 points.
One would think that Penguins wunderkind Sidney Crosby would be the master orchestrator behind the Pens sudden rampage in winning five straight right?
Guess again. It’s the Phil Kessel show now in the Steel City.
Kessel, acquired in a offseason blockbuster trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, has gone from being one of the biggest trade busts to playing light-outs in going on a 12-point binge by scoring six goals and six assists in his last ten games. For the year, the 26-year-old Madison, Wisconsin native tallied another goal during Pittsburgh’s 5-0 shutout of the New York Islanders.
For the year, Kessel has 26 goals and 31 assists for a total of 57 points.
With the win, the Penguins clinched their tenth straight playoff birth, the second longest active streak in the NHL, trailing only the Detroit Red Wings 24-year streak. One would think that with the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, Olli Maatta and the forementioned Malkin, that the Pens would have be finished in the East.
Thanks to Kessel, Pittsburgh may now be the NHL’s scariest and most dangerous team rolling into the postseason now.
What is really scary for opposing teams is not the prospect of Crosby single-handily wrecking them in the playoffs, but if Kessel continues his one-man assault deep into the post-season, he will provide a new series of nightmares for opposing net minders come June.