The Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of the most amazing stories in the NHL this season and continue to dominate the Metropolitan Division despite being riddled with injuries. On Sunday, two of the biggest missing pieces in Pittsburgh came back when Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang returned to the lineup. The return was a good one as the pair combined for four points in a 6-5 win against the Winnipeg Jets, but where some people see a strong team that only gets stronger, I see the potential for a drop-off.
A lot of times when a star player gets hurt and then returns, all of a sudden the guys that were so important to your success decide they aren't important anymore. Subconsciously they think that when reinforcements arrive they can ease up and take down their intensity. Very often you see a drop-off when key players return from injury and this is a reason why.
On the other side of the coin, how much better can Pittsburgh really play? The Penguins' record without all of those players was unbelievable and players like Brandon Sutter, Jussi Jokinen, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland made a huge impact. What happens when a team playing so well together gets its chemistry disrupted? What happens when a defense that was completely beaten up gets three or four injured top-four defenseman back suddenly, as the Penguins have with Letang, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi? You may have already seen the answer on Sunday. Even though the Penguins won, they gave up five goals.