Penguins' journey for elusive 'On switch'

geno.jpgOne of my biggest sports writing pet peeves – even if I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve most likely fallen into that habit before, and probably will again – is leaning on convenient, flimsy psychological factors to explain a team’s struggles.

Joe Thornton’s teams lose in the playoffs because he cannot handle the pressure … just look at that time he didn’t score any points against Montreal! (Sure, he was injured but let’s face it folks, he didn’t care.) Young Team of the Moment faltered in the playoffs because they didn’t have enough “experience,” not the fact that they’re facing a more talented, higher-seeded team. One of my favorite stereotypes has to be the fabled “Team thinks it can just find the on switch,” an argument usually trotted out when a seemingly talented team plays a series of flat games or struggles in the regular season.

Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reached for the light switch argument when discussing the thoroughly unacceptable fact that the Penguins generated an 0-fer against the Devils – and worse yet – the Washington Capitals. (Then again, the “on switch” material isn’t even the most ridiculous thing in the column. Collier used the phrase “twitch slapped” in the column. Yes, “twitch slapped.” Ain’t that a twitch.)

Instead of advancing  the point of the Penguins’ “indifference” why not lean on something a little more tangible like, say, fatigue? Only the Detroit Red Wings can relate to Pittsburgh’s last three years, with the Penguins (by my count) playing a staggering 287 games between these past 3 campaigns plus two maximum playoff runs – not to mention the Olympics. The main reason why this line of thought makes more sense to me is simple: by spending big bucks on Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and other young players, they’ve had to skimp on depth more and more every year. Malkin, in particular, has shown what seems like telltale signs of wear-down – going from 82 games played and 113 points in 08-09 to 64 games played and 72 points so far this season.

Just look at the team’s inner-conference tormentors. The Capitals might be known for their star players, but they also have less-regarded depth players like Mike Knuble to carry the load. The Devils were able to add Ilya Kovalchuk to an already playoff quality team. These teams have had the salary cap flexibility to bolster their lineups while (with all due respect to Jordan Leopold, Mike Rupp and Alex Ponikarovsky) the Penguins have not.

Ultimately, you could chock up a team’s shortcomings to plenty of problems. But could it be that the Penguins are too tired or – hockey gods forbid – just not good enough? Or maybe we should just buy the team a set of powerful flashlights?

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    Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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    Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

    The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

    Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

    CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

    The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

    Wild must overcome Alex Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick

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    Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

    OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

    It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

    This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

    One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

    Bylsma believes league will look at Gudas’ hit on Catenacci

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    Rugged Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas may get in trouble with the league once again.

    At least, it will be that way if Buffalo Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma has his way regarding Gudas’ five-minute charging major hit on Daniel Catenacci.

    “I think there’s no question it’s head hit,” Bylsma said, according to the Buffalo News’ John Vogl. ” … I know the league will look at that hit and deal with it.”

    As far as the injury portion of possible suspension considerations go:

    Marcus Foligno‘s analysis of Gudas was … well just check it out.

    The Flyers ended up winning 5-1. Gudas was a busy man overall, racking up 17 penalty minutes.

    Fight video: Patrice Bergeron vs. Blake Wheeler (seriously)

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    Regular Selke winner Patrice Bergeron can do it all on the ice, it seems. Apparently that means he’ll even drop the gloves.

    That was the unlikely scene during Thursday’s Boston Bruins – Winnipeg Jets skirmish, as Bergeron fought fellow finesse forward Blake Wheeler.

    Perhaps unusual feisty behavior was just in the air, as Tyler Myers squared off with Matt Beleskey.

    (Not as unlikely, but still.)