Dunlap: Stop The Panic About The Penguins

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Dear Goodness, Pittsburgh — relax. Calm down.

Have a beer, go for a walk, read a book, get some exercise, go outside in your backyard and yell at the top of your lungs, squeeze a stress ball, do some yoga, fly to Colorado, I don’t know. Something. But calm down.

Too many people as March is winding to a close are too darn jammed up about the recent form of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Yeah, I have seen the games, too.

Yep, I have witnessed this team get embarrassed in two consecutive home games, beaten by Philadelphia and Chicago a combined 11-3 the last couple times they took the ice Uptown.

Sure, I’m well-aware of this skid where the Penguins have lost four in a row and are 3-6 since a March 13 shootout loss at Calgary put the clamps on a five-game win streak.

And, positively, I know all about the injuries; how this team has been abused and bruised to the point where a bunch of JV guys are playing meaningful minutes and too many guys who are regulars are having their minutes spike beyond the confines of what they should be.

But listen and listen up good — these games right now are scrimmages. They are nothing more than exhibition games. They are a tune up and serve as stick time with a paying crowd. Not all that much more or less in these final six regular-season games between now and April 9 that the Penguins will participate in.

Tell me all you want about playoff seed jockeying. I’m not buying it. They are most likely going to play the Blue Jackets and I’m not all that much sold on the No. 2 or No. 3 seed being a big difference.

Tell me all you want about how guys need some reps before the playoff to get into game shape and I can buy that — but just to the smallest degree. How many regular-season games before a playoff series does a workhorse like Kris Letang or a stud like Evgeni Malkin or a speedster such as Carl Hagelin truly need before one of them can hit full bore? One, maybe two?

Do you really think a man like Trevor Daley or Jake Guentzel would need a week worth of regular-season games before being thrown into a playoff game and being able to compete at a high level? I don’t.

And spare me this whole notion that Matt Murray needs to find some sort of rhythm at the tail end of the regular-season before you feel good about him into this playoff run — because that’s something I have heard from too many people. This is a guy with a 37-12-5 record who just won the Stanley Cup last season. He has a .923 save percentage right now this regular season (the same number he had in the last postseason) and is coming off last year’s playoff run where his goals against was 2.08.

I think once those bright lights of the playoffs come around, Matt Murray will be just fine. He will understand the stage and fit very well as a main character on it.

So panic after four straight late-season losses when a playoff spot is already secure? No way. You need to calm down. These games right now don’t matter.

You know when I will be unnerved? If the playoffs start and Letang, Malkin and Hagelin aren’t suited up for Game 1 of the opening series. Then, and only then, will I worry some.

So panic now? Seriously, spare me.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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