Saturday, March 24, 2012

#247: Another Gear

---SSL Broadcast #86---

What happens when an unstoppable force is the immovable object?

The Pittsburgh Penguins are finally healthy, and they have not lost a game in regulation in over a month. They may not lose again until the playoffs.

The return of superstar captain Sidney Crosby has only made a very dangerous team extremely dangerous. The fact that his comeback has completely eclipsed Kris Letang's contributions only helps the team, because the eyes aren't on him.

Finally, that event I've been waiting for over the last four years - for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to become a consistent goaltender - appears to be coming to pass. His save percentage since the turn of the calendar year is almost 91.9%, half a percent better than league average.

The Penguins continue to lead the league in Shots-on-Goal Differential, which is very important when trending how a best-of-seven series is going to go. Couple that with above-average to excellent goaltending, this Penguins team (health pending) should be the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

As of this writing, some sportsbooks have them as the favorite at about 5-to-1. Others have the Penguins toward the top. But their competition is the same - Detroit, New York Rangers, Vancouver, and St. Louis.

The pieces are in place and are all coming into their primes together. If General Manager Ray Shero can make the right signings and keep this core together somehow under salary cap restrictions, the next sports dynasty not seen since the Chicago Bulls circa 1990 (I don't count the New England Patriots) is nigh.

The scariest part (for the rest of the league), is that this hockey team isn't peaking. It's cresting. And it has another gear it can still hit.

On the latest episode:

- Wide receiver Hines Ward decides to retire, after all.

- Pitt basketball in position to win a postseason tournament.

- Power falls flat in 4th against Philly.

- Pirates must think outside the box to compete with big market teams.



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