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Penguins complicate Pacific race by beating Coyotes

Mar 5, 2012, 10:17 PM EDT

Zbynek Michalek hasn’t always been the asset that the Pittsburgh Penguins were hoping for when they signed him in 2010 – at least for his price – but he has a way of bringing it against his former team.

Michalek scored a rare goal to help Pittsburgh beat the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1, giving the Pens their sixth win in a row while bumping the idle Dallas Stars up to first place in the Pacific Division.

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Pittsburgh powers on

It’s easy to zero in on Michalek for his unusual contribution, but as usual, it was about the Penguins’ big guns. Evgeni Malkin crawled ahead of Steven Stamkos in the Art Ross race by nabbing point No. 81 on an assist on Chris Kunitz‘ eventual game-winner, but Marc-Andre Fleury was the real star.

Fleury stopped 36 out of 37 shots to push his season record to 35-14-3, with six wins and a non-decision in his last seven appearances. As obvious a choice as Malkin will be for the Hart Trophy voting if he stays on his lofty pace, it’s not crazy to say that MAF has been almost as valuable to the Penguins’ success.

Pacific roam

The Coyotes’ loss makes for a really intriguing race for the Pacific Division crown. Let’s take a simple look at the situation at hand.

First in Pacific, third in West: Dallas – 35-26-5 for 75 points; 16 games remaining; 35 wins (30 regulation/OT)
Second in Pacific, seventh in West: Phoenix – 33-24-9 for 75 points; 16 GR; 33 wins (28 reg/OT)
Third in Pacific, eighth in West: San Jose – 33-24-7 for 73 points; 18 GR; 33 wins (27 reg/OT)
Fourth in Pacific, ninth in West: Los Angeles – 30-23-12 for 72 points; 17 GR; 30 wins (26 reg/OT)
Fifth in Pacific, 12th in West: Anaheim – 28-28-10 for 66 points; 16 GR; 28 wins (25 reg/OT)

Obviously there is very little separating the Stars and Coyotes, but they cannot take their two other major divisional rivals lightly, either. The Sharks are a more serious immediate threat from tie-breaker perspectives (two games in hand, comparable wins) but the Kings are trending up more than the Sharks. (San Jose is on an unsettling 2-7-1 streak.)

Ultimately, it’ll come down to closing ability and schedule. There are plenty of interesting stretches for all the teams in the last month of the season, but I cannot help but look at a season-ending home-and-home between the Kings and Sharks as an especially invigorating stretch of (potential) do-or-die hockey.

Who do you think takes the puzzling Pacific?

  1. dallasstars9 - Mar 5, 2012 at 11:22 PM

    Go Stars!

  2. blomfeld - Mar 5, 2012 at 11:42 PM

    “Who do you think takes the puzzling Pacific?” …

    That’s a very good question Mister O’Brien, as the Pacific Division does indeed appear to be up for grabs ? The “statistics” say it should be this team or that team, etc. But at the end of the day, statistics are nothing more than numbers which attempt to predict “that” which will happen, based entirely on “that” which has already happened. I’ve personally studied this field at an advanced level at college and when all was said and done, I came to the realization that all it amounted to, was nothing more than a cowardly “numbers” game. The truth of the matter is however, that one never really knows ? Therefore, I’m convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, that one is far better served by relying on our own innate “God-given” instinct to foresee see that which will happen. And in that vein, I do sincerely see the LA Kings emerging not only as champions of the Pacific Division, but as contenders for the Stanley Cup finals this June !

    PS to Mister O’Brien: I came here to your forum as a refugee from the former PGT, after it was taken over by the Golf Channel in November. However, I will tell you that I have never experienced a more venomous, hateful or mean-spirited group of people than what you have assembled here at PHT ! I’m sorry, but such are my feelings.

  3. ottograham - Mar 6, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    @blomfeld

    its not just PHT its all of their forums alike. Very disrespectful and hypocritical. But what do you expect from humans hiding behind a computer monitor?

    • blomfeld - Mar 6, 2012 at 11:32 PM

      Thank you friend, as I suspect what you say is true … may God bless you …

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