In my never ending, child-like quest for attention, I’m now prepared to make a shocking NHL prediction. A prediction that will be maligned and mocked today. But deeply, deeply respected a month and a half from now. I am the only man in North America making this prediction. Admittedly, that’s part of what I love about it. So here it is. Brace yourself.
The much celebrated Pittsburgh Penguins will not make this year’s playoffs.
The Pens are exciting, playing great and chock full of skill and youth. But they’re not ready for prime time. Not yet. Sure, they’ve added two excellent rookies in Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. Plus a few decent guys like Nils Ekman, Domenic Moore and Jarkko Ruutu. I’ll also admit the young, returning players have another year of maturity and development under their belt, which also makes them better. But before we hire Morgan Freeman to narrate the Stanley Cup March of the Penguins DVD, let’s step back a minute.
The playoffs are still 7 weeks away. I believe this group of kids will begin to start feeling the pressure of expectations. Until now, there’s been none. They’ve been kids, playing loose and having fun. They’ll now have to withstand the pressure of desperate, more veteran teams, trying to nail down a playoff spot in the insanely tight East. And their schedule is all East from here on out. I think they’ll crack.
This team has accomplished a ton with a terrific turnaround. They’re already 15 points better than their season total from last year when they finished dead last in the East – extra emphasis on DEAD. They closed the campaign 12 points behind the entire conference. It’s asking an awful lot of a team this young to go from last year’s disaster to making the playoffs in just one year.
Laugh now. We visionaries are used to it. But let’s see where we are on April 11th.