Adversity has been an issue for the Pittsburgh Penguins (15-12-3) over the past couple weeks with a coaching change, several key injuries, and players not producing at the level expected. The Penguins have 52 games left in the season, which seems like many more opportunities to enter the playoffs for the 10th straight year, but in reality, we all know how quick the season moves. “It is hard to come back in this league,” David Perron stated. With every team being a contender in the league, it makes it harder and harder to find yourself in a playoff position at the end of the year. Just 11 points separate the second wild card position and the last place team in the Eastern Conference as of December 17th. Every single team in this league has the desire to hoist the Stanley Cup this spring, if the Penguins would like to be in that discussion, they might want to act as soon as their upcoming game against the Boston Bruins (17-9-4) on Friday night.
So far under Mike Sullivan, the Penguins have scored 1 goal on 79 shots, not exactly a statistic to ride home about. Yes, the Penguins are getting more shots and opportunities, but, the quality of the shots are not nearly where they need to be. Many people believe that the Penguins need to just start getting lucky bounces that can get them rolling, I think they need to just put the puck where it needs to go to beat the goaltender. Before every game, the coach provides a scouting report to the players informing them where the goalie might be weak, why can we not execute that, the puck cannot go through the goalie, every shot we take hits the goalie right in the chest or misses the net by 6 feet. Even I can go on Google and look up what Tuukka Rask’s assets and flaws are! Sidney Crosby stated after yesterday’s 3-0 loss to the Bruins, “We have to find a way to just score some ugly ones.” Instead of saying that, take responsibility for how poorly you have played up to this point and say you are going to fix it.
If you follow the Penguins on any social media today, you saw that through a flashback to December 17th, 1991, your hometown team scored 8 goals in 1 period. Now I know that the times have changed with enlarged goalie pads and such, but this is the kind of hockey this team needs. We have world class talent on this team that has proven in the past to put the biscuit in the net. To put this into perspective, the Penguins of this year have scored 8 goals since December 6th over a 5 game stretch. When a team finds out they have to play the Penguins from Pittsburgh, they should be thinking, we need to minimize Crosby and Malkin’s opportunities and keep an eye out for Kessel. We know they can score but which defensive pairing do we put on while they are on the ice. The opposing team should be asking themselves a million questions before the game begins. Now, they have nothing to worry about, the Penguins are not scoring as they should, they are not physical, and are extremely slow. The opposing team just has to focus on what they do best and their philosophy because they do not have to adapt to the way we play. We simply have yet to provide our entity into this league, are we going to score? NO. Are we going to hit? NO. Are we going to play the skilled game that we are accustomed to seeing? NO. We have to find out what kind of hockey team we are quickly or we will find ourselves at the bottom with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the hometown faithful will be with a playoff appearance since 2006.
Something that scares me the most as a Penguins fan is the divisional match-ups that we play in a season. We all know what divisional games are like, especially against Philadelphia and Washington. Every team plays a physical game and each team has its skill players that consistently put pucks in the net. So far this year, the Penguins are 1-4 in Metropolitan Divisional games, and we do not play most of our divisional games until the end of the year. What am I trying to say? If we cannot win now, how are we going to beat the teams in our division at the end of the year during the playoff race? Every team in the division has the same mentality going into a game against the Penguins, agitate their star players which will get them into penalty issues, and score maybe 2 goals and you have the game wrapped up. That mentality could get any team in this division a victory against these guys. How sad does that make you feel as a Penguins fan? Makes me sick to my stomach. Once we begin to play the Rangers, Islanders, Capitals, and the Devils on a consistent basis, you better look out because they are going to hit, and hit hard. We have nobody that can stand up to Matt Martin (Islanders), Tom Wilson (Capitals), Ryan White (Flyers), and Tanner Glass (Rangers). This list can go on and on with players that we cannot match up to. There are certain aspects to the game that we need to adapt to, to be successful, especially in the playoffs.
The Penguins match up against the Bruins Friday night and Carolina Saturday against a familiar foe in Jordan Staal. Man do I miss that guy. If the Penguins do not figure it out sooner than later, consider Jim Rutherford history.
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