Penguins looking for a big second-half breakout

Published 3:58 a.m. ET Jan. 3, 2018

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,”…

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