Apr 12, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing James Neal (18) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Flyers won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Pittsburgh Penguins' Late-Season Form Is Concerning

Apr 12, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Flyers won 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

No matter the sport, you always want to be playing your best heading into the postseason.

That’s something the Pittsburgh Penguins cannot claim as the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to begin. Their recent play is something they should be very concerned about as they get set to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in their first-round series beginning on Wednesday night.

In fact the Penguins are one of the coldest of all the teams set to chase the Stanley Cup.

Only the Minnesota Wild (10), Detroit Red Wings (11) and Chicago Blackhawks (11) have won as few as the 11 games that the Pens have won since March 1.

Look more closely and the Penguins are entering the playoffs riding a 7-7-3 stretch over their past 17 games.

Injuries and strength of schedule play a major role in how a team is playing entering the postseason, but you would feel much better about the Pens’ chances if they were entering the playoffs riding a hot streak.

Many teams are.

The Los Angeles Kings have won 16 of their past 24 contests. The Wild have won five of seven. The Anaheim Ducks are taking an 8-2-1 stretch into the playoffs.

Then there’s the Tampa Bay Lightning, who traded Martin St. Louis, but have gone 11-3-2 over their past 16. The Colorado Avalanche enter hot, posting an 8-1-1 mark over their past 10. The Montreal Canadiens also have to feel good about themselves as they are 11-3-1 over their past 15.

As for teams the Penguins could face along the way, the Blue Jackets are riding a 14-7-2 streak into the postseason while potential second-round opponent New York is 9-2-2 over its past 13.

Finally, there are the Boston Bruins, who are a whopping 19-2-6 since February 1.

The good news for the Pens is that everything starts over on Wednesday. However, even the most talented teams have trouble just turning on the switch when the postseason rolls around.

While the Penguins are the favorites against the Blue Jackets, a team they defeated all five times that they have played this season by a combined score of 16-8,  the Pens  aren’t exactly playing their best hockey of the season.

That alone is concerning as you have to hope that Dan Bylsma‘s team didn’t peak too early.

Tags: 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs Pittsburgh Penguins

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