The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t immediately set the world on fire when head coach Mike Johnston was relieved of his duties. In fact, they lost their first four under the new guy, Mike Sullivan.
But according to star center Evgeni Malkin, it’s all starting to come together now. The Pens are 7-3-4 in their last 14, and they’re getting closer to climbing into a playoff position.
“Now we are starting to believe that we can win every game,” Malkin told the Penguins’ website. “We have a great team. We started playing better. I believe that we will make the playoffs.”
About Sullivan, Malkin said: “He came to the team and brought more energy and emotion.”
For instance, Malkin credited his coach for last night’s 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Flyers: “We were down 2-0 and he came to the locker room and pressured us here, showed emotion and we brought emotion to the game.”
It certainly hasn’t hurt that Sidney Crosby has picked up his scoring pace. The captain had just 19 points before the coaching change. He’s up to 39 now. In January alone, he has 12 points in nine games.
In terms of puck possession, the Penguins as a team have been excellent under Sullivan. Here’s where they rank since he took over:
In the 28 games under Johnston, they ranked 20th.
“We changed the coach,” said Malkin. “It takes time to change the system.”
The Pens host the Canucks Saturday afternoon, then they’re at Washington on Sunday afternoon (on NBC).