Penguins Cap Off Rough Week
Written by: Wyatt Silverman
The Penguins suffered through a pretty weak week, going 1–2 against the Flyers, Red Wings, and Predators, but based on their performance against Nashville, perhaps things have stabilized. A big issue for the Penguins this season has been a frequent inability to hold a lead. Against Dallas and Detroit in particular, it’s cost them. The team is positioned well, only one point out of the division lead (with a game in hand), but an extra win or two would have really helped.
Since last week’s report, the Pens have played 3 games. Team captain Sidney Crosby was held without a point in two of them. He rebounded nicely with a 1 goal, 2 assist performance against the Nashville Predators, and earned the First Star. Crosby is now 1 point back of Dallas’s Tyler Seguin for the scoring title. Evgeni Malkin was moved back to his usual position of center and responded with a nice goal. He had been playing on Brandon Sutter’s wing, to some success, but Malkin seems back to full health, and he’s more useful as a pivot.
As a team, Pittsburgh ranks second with 3.57 goals per game. They lead the league with a staggering 40% power play conversion rate. After a bit of a downturn, the Pens’ responded extremely well on the man advantage against Nashville, potting 2 key goals.
Speaking of Nashville, that game was the Penguins’ first shutout of the season. Marc-Andre Fleury had 24 saves, and in general the team locked down the 3rd period. Although they were substantially outshot, most were harmless perimeter attempts. They also blocked 17 shots during the game.
In the two losses, there was less to be excited about. As it turned out, the greatest success against the hated Flyers was the debut of the long- awaited throwback jerseys. Even clothed in black and “Pittsburgh Gold,” the Pens couldn’t keep the puck out of the net long enough to really get anything going. Philly ended up winning 5–3 after an empty netter. There were some bright spots, however, as both Nick Spaling and Marcel Goc scored their first goals for Pittsburgh.
Facing Detroit in Joe Louis Arena, the Penguins hoped to erase the bad memories of the night before. Second netminder Thomas Greiss got the start, and Pittsburgh pulled ahead to a 3–1 lead. Dupuis, Määttä, and Kunitz all scored. However, a victory wasn’t in the cards. Although the Pens held the Red Wings off for almost 30 minutes, when Jimmy Howard was pulled, the Detroit offense got to work. They got 2 goals in 2 minutes, with the tying marker coming off a spectacular move by Pavel Datsyuk to set up Nik Kronwall.
With the way that loss went down, it was nice to see the team respond with a solid 60-minute effort in their next game. Closing out victories has been a recurring issue for this Penguins squad over the last few years. As the team gets more in tune with Mike Johnston’s system, they will be able to react instead of thinking which should help. Still, they need to make sure they have the right mindset—keep the proverbial foot on the other team’s neck.
In the next week, the Penguins have a 3-game homestead. Up first on 10/28 come the division rival New Jersey Devils (4–2–2). Led in points by centerman Adam Henrique, and in goals by new acquisition Mike Cammalleri, the Devils should put up a good fight. However, goalie Corey
￼Schneider has proven vulnerable in his first season as the undisputed starter. In 8 games, he has let up 22 goals on a .912 save percentage.
Up next, the defending champion LA Kings are dominating with a 6–1–1 record, and are riding a 6 game home win streak. Jonathan Quick is in playoff form with a .953 save percentage and 5 wins. The Kings also have a duo of 12-point centers, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli. Left Winger Tanner Pearson leads the team with 7 goals. The Kings will provide a major test. Over the last few years, the Penguins haven’t been perceived as a team that could truly hang with the elite Western Conference squads. A solid victory versus LA could help dispel that notion.
The final game of the week is against the hapless Buffalo Sabres, who sit 15th in the Eastern Conference. Despite their surprising win over the Sharks, Buffalo is still a pretty terrible hockey team. Their leading scorer, Drew Stafford, has 4 points. He would rank 9th on the Penguins. Just sayin’. Anything but a victory would be a major disappointment.
It’s possible the Penguins will escape this stretch with a 3–0 record, but I find it more likely they’ll finish 2–1. Up next is a 5-game road trip, which should be another good indicator of how the team is rounding into form.