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”We need to find that second gear”: Penguins Looking For a Big Second-Half Breakout

There's no need to push the panic button in Pittsburgh yet.

Soon, maybe.

There are plenty of examples of a reigning Stanley Cup champion not making the following season's playoffs, most recently the Los Angeles Kings in 2015. But one would need to go all the way back to 1970 to find when a back-to-back champion didn't even qualify for the postseason – when Montreal achieved that dubious feat.

That's what Pittsburgh is trying to avoid.

The Penguins aren't in trouble yet, though aren't exactly on the thickest of ice either. They haven't as much as won back-to-back games in a month, and are basically in the middle of the pack in goal-scoring – after leading the league last season.

If the season was over now, they wouldn't be in the playoffs. But there's a ton of hockey left, and the Penguins know there's lots of time to make a run.

''We need to find that second gear,'' Penguins left wing Conor Sheary said recently. ''It's coming into the second half of the season here. We have to make sure we're stringing some wins together and maybe get on a win streak here.''

Sheary did his part Tuesday night, scoring in Pittsburgh's 5-1 win over Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh has the longest active streak of playoff appearances, having been to the postseason 11 consecutive times.


Winnipeg's Patrick Laine is still only 19, and has a chance to join a seriously elite club.

He has 54 career goals, which means he's on the cusp of joining the 10 highest-scoring teens in NHL history. Steven Stamkos had 55 goals before he turned 20.

The other teens with that many goals: Jimmy Carson, Dale Hawerchuk, Wayne Gretzky, Brian Bellows, Sidney Crosby, Steve Yzerman, Ilya Kovalchuk, Bob Carpenter and Rick Nash.

For comparison's sake, Jaromir Jagr had 50 NHL goals on his resume when he turned 20.

Speaking of the Jets, they piled up 102 standings points in the 2017 calendar year – by far their best ''year'' since relocating to Winnipeg in 2011. Only seven NHL teams had more points from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.


Washington's Alex Ovechkin has a league-best three hat tricks already this season – and there's still a full half of the schedule yet to be played.

It doesn't sound like much, but Ovechkin is on quite a pace.

No NHL player has had four in a season since 2010-11 – done then by Alexander Semin and Drew Stafford.



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