It was in this space three weeks ago that I, The Great Hockey Knower, told you, the Pittsburgh-Based Reader, that your favorite local sports team would win the Presidents’ Trophy. This was not to win your love, but because of honest, objective analysis of the teams vying for the best record in the NHL.
And now look who is on top (in a tie) of the league standings — the very handsome and noble Pittsburgh Penguins with 95 points. Although technically the Washington Capitals hold the ROW tiebreaker and play a game later Tuesday while I’m writing this.
The Penguins, despite what should be devastating injuries on the blue line, are 5-0-1 in their past six. That “1” came in the form of a 4-3 shootout loss Monday to the Calgary Flames, who have won 10 straight, so just getting a road point off that team is an accomplishment.
And if you’re going to lose a game, get a point out of it and have Johnny Gaudreau do this to you along the way. It’s worth it.
If the Penguins are going to win the Presidents’ Trophy, they’ll do it over the next two weeks. They play five of their eight games at home and two of the three road games are against a dead-in-the-water team (Buffalo) and a mostly-dead-in-the-water team (Philadelphia).
Final note: The Penguins’ next game — at Philadelphia tonight — is Game 69 for both teams.
(OK, so the Capitals beat the Wild 4-2 on Tuesday, so they are no longer tied with the Penguins. Ignore all that earlier stuff about my genius. Always do that, actually.)
When the Penguins beat the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout on Friday, it was partly because Connor McDavid scored on his own team. Evgeni Malkin fired a shot that went through Cam Talbot but not across the goal line, but when McDavid attempted to clear the puck, he bounced it off his goaltender and into the net.
The goal was credited to Malkin, and the audio of his teammates congratulating him for “scoring” is dripping with sarcasm, so it’s great.
Any audio of American Hero Phil Kessel mocking people is good audio.
Player of the Week
Evgeni MalkinSergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Malkin, the 101st best player in NHL history, is on fire and within striking distance of a third career scoring title. He had four goals and an assist in four games over the past week and has seven goals and 10 points in seven games this month. He trails McDavid by three points in the scoring race and is two behind Sidney Crosby, who is one of the top 100 players in NHL history.
Mr. 101 is having another amazing season, the type of season only a top-101 player of all-time can have.
Player of the Weak
Phil KesselSergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Phil! Where have you gone? No goals and two assists in four games. He hasn’t scored a goal in 12 games. If he were still in Toronto, he’d be blamed for the Leafs’ fading out of the postseason; in Pittsburgh, the Penguins are 7-3-2 in those 12 games, so nobody cares.
It’s odd how a good team has a lot of good players, and one good player failing to score for a few weeks doesn’t matter in that scenario.
Dynasties and super teams are the best thing for sports, and I used to piss and moan about all sports needing salary caps. I was an idiot.
About three years ago, I could not possibly care less about the NBA. Then, the Golden State Warriors started doing their thing. So I started watching when they were on national TV. Then they beat the Cavaliers. Then they lost to the Cavaliers. Now I know who James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins are! I’m joining a fantasy NBA league next season!
You’ll probably never get a super team in the NHL, but the Penguins have legitimate stars and are fun to watch, so having them marketed as “back-to-back champs” with two of the best players in the league, it’s good. You need a team that’s fun to watch and easy to hate, and winning breeds hate. You don’t have to manufacture it with rivalry nights.
Think about the New England Patriots, too, and how many people tune in to watch them because they are good at football and because you want with all your heart to watch Tom Brady cry on the sidelines as Eli Man … fine, Ben Roethlisberger, rips Tom’s stupid heart out. You get casual fans to tune into that.
The same could work for hockey.