Rest & The Rest: The Upside of Injuries by @Jagrmeister

Let’s face it, hockey is an extremely physically demanding sport. It takes a special human to be able to go out there day in and day out and take the kinds of hits these players dish out; particularly the 3rd and 4th line grinders who essentially get paid bang bodies. In a given season it’s inevitable that your team is going to face some injuries, some worse than others. And in a compressed season such as this, all the more often.

This year the Penguins have faced a plethora of injuries across the board. While I don’t have the research to prove it, I surmise they’ve had the biggest impact on their star players of any team. Players such as Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and Letang have all missed significant time. Martin and Niskanen have also missed their share of games. Of the core players, only Kunitz, Dupuis, Cooke, Sutter, Glass and Adams have played every game.

After two paragraphs of the necessary back drop, it’s time to explain my point of the article’s title. The upside you say? How does one find a silver lining in their players (stars rather) sitting out? Well that’s just it. I see two key points to consider as positives when your star players are injured. The first being rest, the second being the rest.

Something players almost never get but could absolutely use is downtime rest. You often hear Head Coach Dan Bylsma explaining to the media the reason why certain players aren’t on the ice for a given practice, that being a “maintenance day.” Obviously those are given for players to rest up some bump, pulls, and bruises they sustain at times. But when a player gets injured enough to miss 3-5 games, those bumps and bruises are all but extinct. Take a look at the way Geno has played in the past two games. So we lost them, they were meaningless either way. But 71 looks like he did during the first and second game. Bottom line, Geno is rested. And to have your star players fully healed and properly rested before the playoffs begin? That’s an upside.

The second point I termed as “the rest.” What I mean by that is not rest as in relaxation, but rather the “rest” of the players on the team. When your stars go out, you give the remaining players on your team a chance to step up and show some leadership. Veteran players such as Kunitz and Dupuis have made an impact this year maybe more than any previous year. Furthermore, our beloved GM went out and picked up two more leaders prior to the deadline in Iginla and Morrow. Is it merely a coincidence that both of these players have had a bigger impact on the team with 87 and 71 out of the lineup? Maybe. But what that tells me is they’re just acting out on their natural tendencies to lead.

So in the end, while we all wanted Crosby to win the scoring race, the rest he’s getting and the rest of the team are seeing the benefits. If I saw the number of injuries this team has faced without seeing where they were in the standings, I’d think maybe they’re somewhere in the middle of the pack. But where are they, on top of the East. Don’t let the injuries get you down. They very well may be the variable that this team needed this year to get them another Cup.
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