At some point, we have to ask the question if the Pittsburgh Penguins are stuck in a slump or if they are just a pedestrian team.
After starting the season 6-7-3, the Penns went on their annual ripper during the holidays, posting a 13-2-2 record from Nov. 17 through Christmas break. That hot streak got tongues wagging about the Penguins being a legitimate contender to win the Stanley Cup and possibly win the Metropolitan Division, but the team once again had a rough time, going 5-7-3 in their last 15 games. Victim.
In other words, we’ve seen the Penguins have two long stretches of minor hockey built around the same hot streak.
The Pens will be welcomed to the All-Star break by the red-hot Colorado Avalanche.
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Avalanche vs. Penguins Prediction
(7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
The Avalanche have also battled some long streaks this season, but most of that seems to be in the rearview mirror for now. Colorado has won seven of eight at the break and looks poised to charge up the Central Division ladder as we continue down the stretch.
A big reason for Colorado’s good fortune is that the avalanche is finally approaching full strength. Valeri Nikoshkin and Bowen Byram have both been cleared to play, meaning the “only” impact players in Colorado’s press box right now are Gabriel Lanskog and Josh Manson.
With healthy bodies on the field, Colorado’s offense has started to pick up steam over the past few weeks. In their last 10 games, Colorado is scoring 3.43 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, the second-best mark in the NHL over that span.
Colorado’s speed and transition ability should present a very difficult problem to solve for the Penguins, who are allowing 2.73 goals per 60 minutes and scoring just 2.11 in their last 10 games. Pittsburgh’s 5-on-5 play has been poor, but the Penguins aren’t getting any help from goaltending with Tristan Jarry injured and Casey DeSmith out of form for a long time.
Betting on the NHL?
At this point in the season, it’s fair to wonder how much Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Jake Guentzel have left in the tank. All four are exceptional players, but they are being asked to do a lot on a team that lacks depth and needs consistent scoring to provide cover for suspect netminding.
This looks like a scary matchup for the Penguins out of the break and the betting market is giving the home team a lot of credit against a sleeping giant.
Pick Avalanche vs Penguins.
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