Pens You Can Play night; Malkin’s Club 101; NHL divisional setup is really stupid

The Penguins have the third-best record in the East and may open the playoffs on the road. Dave Lozo explains why this stinks.

Multi-colored tape on a stick in honor of the NHL's "You Can Play" initiative.

Multi-colored tape on a stick in honor of the NHL's "You Can Play" initiative.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL divisional setup is stupid.

How stupid is it?!

It’s so stupid that the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hold the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and fourth-best record in the NHL, would open the playoffs today on the road. Why? Because dumb luck has them in the Metropolitan Division, a ruthless minefield that holds the four best teams in the East. Every team in the Metro should have home-ice advantage in the first round yet two will have to open the playoffs on the road.

The Penguins went 2-0-1 over the past seven days, earning five of six points, yet they still trail the Columbus Blue Jackets by one point and the Washington Capitals by eight points. Home ice tends to be overrated today, but considering the Penguins have the best record in the NHL at home (22-3-3) and have lost more than they’ve won on the road (11-10-3), opening the playoffs in Pittsburgh is huge for them.

There’s a good chance they will pass Columbus and close the gap on Washington over the next seven days, as the Penguins will face three of the four-worst teams in the NHL — Colorado, Arizona and Vancouver. After that stretch, the Penguins take on the Winnipeg Jets, the NHL’s fifth-worst team.

Anything less than seven points from those four matchups should be considered a failure to the Penguins.

You Can Play

The NHL marks February as “Hockey Is For Everyone” month and the Penguins held their first “You Can Play” night at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday. It was held in concert with Delta Foundation, an advocacy organization for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and is part of the You Can Play initiative that works with the NHL.

“It’s a lot of fun for us to be involved with that,” Nick Bonino said to CBS Pittsburgh. “I think that NHL’s done a great job partnering with them and promoting the LGBT community, and I think guys in here are looking forward to being able to use the tape and try to promote that.”

“Pittsburgh identifies with its beloved sports teams very well so for the Penguins to stand up and say that everyone should be treated equally is something big,” Delta Foundation president Kevin Van Horn said to CBS Pittsburgh. “I think it will resonate with fans.”

The NHL in April 2013 became the first major sports league to partner with You Can Play. The organization educates players about LGBT issues and offers counseling on any issues related to sexual orientation.

Player of the Week

NHL: Calgary Flames at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s give it to Sidney Crosby, who had two goals and four points last week and enters this week with 998 career points. Considering the level of competition awaiting Crosby in the coming days, he should blow past 1,000 points by the time we meet in this pace next week.

Player of the Weak

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Toronto Maple Leafs
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Patric Hornqvist winds up here more than he probably should. He had one goal in his three games this past week but he had just two shots combined in the other two games. I know, I know. The Penguins got five of six points last week. No one was really bad. Sorry, Patric.

Club 101

NHL: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To put a bow on the snubbing of Evgeni Malkin from the NHL’s 100 Greatest Hockey Players That Has 10-15 Players Who Don’t Belong There But They Won Stanley Cups Or Whatever, he addressed the omission last week.

“One hundred players is legend. Those players, they deserve to be on this list,” Malkin said to media in Pittsburgh. “But maybe I win a couple more trophies, a couple more Stanley Cups and maybe next year — the 101 NHL year — and they send me a great black jacket and I will be No. 101.

“I’m proud what [the] team said, what (owner) Mario (Lemieux) said. I’m proud of my family and fans and my friends. They support me. I did my best. What I can do is nothing.”

Yes, a couple more trophies. Because the Conn Smythe, Hart, and two Art Ross trophies and two Stanley Cups weren’t enough for the player who averages the 14th-most points per game in NHL history. Sure, he’s no Joe Nieuwendyk, Mike Modano or Jonathan Toews, but with some hard work and a few bounces, one day Malkin could be on their level.

If you’re interested in a fun, inexpensive and readily available list of ranked NHL greats that include Malkin, I know a guy who can hook you up with a book.

One Question

The 1995-96 team, for sure. It got screwed by two things that it couldn’t control.

1. The NHL’s boring-ass, hooking-and-holding style of play that benefited the boring-ass, hooking-and-holding style employed by the Florida Panthers. There’s no way a team with Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Sergei Zubov and Tom Barrasso should ever lose four of out of seven to Dave Lowry, Tom Fitzgerald…look, the Panthers weren’t a good team and I just listed their two best players.

2. Ron Francis breaking his foot in the second round. There’s no way in hell the Panthers would’ve beaten the Penguins with a healthy Francis. They lost a guy that had 119 points in the regular season and nine points in 11 games during the postseason. The Panthers could’ve obstructed all day and that series is over in six games no matter what.

The Penguins probably would’ve lost to the Avs in the Stanley Cup Final though. Don’t @ me.