Penguins Find Benefit in Pushing For Playoffs Rather Than Coasting in
The Pittsburgh Penguins are scratching and clawing to try to get into the Stanley Cup playoffs. There are other teams that have clinched a playoff spot and are perhaps vying for home ice or the highest seed possible, or even just using their last regular-season games as prep time for the postseason.
So do those two levels of play look different?
“Oh, yeah,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said Monday after practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. “If you’re in the situation that a handful of us teams are in (trying to clinch a spot), your desperation, your urgency’s there. It’s been there for a bit now.”
In other words, the Penguins are doing their prep work by fire.
“I think it’s great for the team, you know, as far as how tight it is going down the stretch here, how much every single one of these games mean, it’s great for the team,” goaltender Casey DeSmith said. “You know, once, hopefully, we get in the playoffs we’ll already be in that playoff mindset.
“You know, a lot of these teams may be coasting in a little bit, don’t have to worry as much and don’t have to compete as hard every night.”
The Penguins, with nine games left, hold down the second and final Eastern Conference wild-card spot, one point behind the New York Islanders, three points ahead of Florida and six points ahead of Buffalo and Washington.
It has their adrenaline flowing.
“It’s not hard to wake up for the games,” Penguins forward Ryan Poehling said. “It’s exciting. Every point matters for us. It’s fun. It’s important. And it will give us a little head start, hopefully, if we can (make the playoffs).”
The Penguins, in some past seasons, have been on the other side, a team whose spot in the playoffs was secured by this point in the season.
“Is it a different circumstance? Yes,” said coach Mike Sullivan. “We’ve been on both sides of it. I’ve been on both sides of it. But right now the circumstance we’re in, for all intents and purposes, we feel like we’re in the playoffs right now.”
And if they get there for real, this desperate push could help.
“I think it brings everybody closer together, that playoff feel, how much points mean right now,” DeSmith said. “It’s just the whole playoff atmosphere I think is when teams come together and jell the most toward the end of the year. I just think we’re getting an early start.”