Penguins

Kovacevic: What if Penguins did the pushing?

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Patric Hornqvist and the Bruins' Zdeno Chara in January. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

We're about a month away from the Penguins opening training camp in Cranberry and getting our first real glimpse of what they've got.

Maybe we'll hear that, too, along the glass.

No, this won't be some paleozoic, Brian Burke-type plea for more punch to the lineup. It's not just fighting that's gone. It's hitting, shoving, face-washing ... pretty much anything that's physical enough to carry a skater so much as a half-stride out of his way from prioritizing possession.

I get it. I embraced it long ago. Goals were up in the NHL in 2017-18 to 5.94 per game, up .4 from the previous season for the biggest increase of the salary cap era. Given that Gary Bettman's still the commissioner, that's an astonishing achievement, and I'll split credit for that between the league's smart enforcement of slashing guidelines and coaches' emphasis on possession, speed and so forth.

It's a fast man's game. All else are getting left behind. Show me the top five teams in the league in hits last year, and I'll show you five teams that didn't win a single playoff game: Canadiens, Oilers, Kings, Coyotes, Senators. Heck, the team that had been the biggest and baddest, the Jets, didn't start succeeding until they cut out a lot of their own extracurriculars.

And again, that's fine.

But that doesn't mean the local club couldn't benefit from a bit more pushback.

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