Saturday, January 21, 2012

#239: Fighting Opportunity

---SSL Broadcast #77---

The Penguins have fought their way back into a playoff spot after briefly being on the outside looking in.

Is it a coincidence that their recent string of wins is connected to their recent string of first period fights?.


There's some buzz (I hope there's not too much) that the Penguins current five-game winning streak and solid play for six is because the Pens have been getting their spark from fights.

In the six contests dating back to (and including) their 1-0 loss in Washington to the Capitals, the Penguins have been involved seven total fights, one in the first period of each game. Some want to argue that the Pens are getting a spark from the early game fisticuffs. They're just the ones who think that fighting is the heart and soul of hockey. But it isn't the heart and soul of winning hockey.

During their winning streak, the Pens have outshot their opponents by an average of 13.6 shots per game, raising their league-leading shots-on-goal-differential to a near-dominant +7.9. The team hasn't been outshot since December 20 against the Blackhawks (38-28).

The biggest difference has been the play of Marc-Andre Fleury over that span. Including the 1-0 loss to Washington, Fleury has posted a .928 save percentage (and his performances against Tampa Bay and especially Montreal weren't exactly sterling).

Fighting isn't ancillary to the Pens success in any way. It's a sideshow. A smoke screen for those who are drawn to the pugilistic side of the sport.

The team's faith in coach Dan Bylsma's puck-possession system and a superior effort from their netminder have shaped their success, and it will continue to keep them ahead of the pack despite all the injuries that have plagued the team.

On the most recent show:

- Steelers making headlines over the last 48 hours.

- Panthers need Woodall sooner rather than later (if they can't medical-redshirt him).

- Pirates avoid arbitration with all arbitration-eligible pitchers.

- Championship Sunday approacheth.

- As predicted, I went 1-3 on my NFL Playoff Picks (20-21-1 overall). This will likely come down to the Super Bowl. Again.



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