Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella does not like the Pittsburgh Penguins. He probably never has. In his colorful style, Tortorella said so again today, after the Blue Jackets morning skate. “Quite honestly, I don’t like the team,” he said.
The Penguins culture is built around skill, finesse and a unique belief in the superiority of those traits. Tortorella is an intense coach who demands players skate through brick walls.
Tortorella does not like the Penguins here or there. He does not like them anywhere.
Are the Penguins superior, or Tortorella inferior? Either way, it provides a highly competitive atmosphere and usually at least a few bruises on each side. And I suspect even Penguins fans are warming to Tortorella’s honesty.
It certainly makes a great rivalry.
10 Days, no 5v5 Goals
It has been more than 200 minutes since a Penguins forward scored a true even strength goal. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel scored in the first period of 4-2 loss to Colorado on 12/18/17. Evgeni Malkin scored 1:35 into the third period of that game–one second after Mikko Rantanen’s penalty expired. The gate was barely open when Malkin buried a tough angle wrister.
So, if you’re technical, it’s 138 minutes. In real-world terms, also toss Sidney Crosby’s empty-netter at the end of the Arizona game, December 16. Malkin’s tally in the second period of the Arizona game was the last 5v5 goal a Penguins forward scored.
The Penguins were shutout in their last game, Saturday at home against Anaheim. The Penguins scored a pair of power-play goals in their win over Columbus on December 21.
Cloud Over Penguins?
Matt Murray called it “adversity,” after Saturday. However, the Penguins are 5-2 against Metropolitan Division teams this season. And, the Mike Sullivan’s Penguins are 5-1-1 against Columbus.
The adversity Murray referred is the inability to score and feel right about the performances. The Penguins have become masters of finding silver linings, but after 37 games, they are below .500, 18-16-3.
Penguins number one defenseman Kris Letang will miss the game with a lower body injury. Letang blocked a shot with his foot against Anaheim, which may be the culprit. Letang did finish the game, but the absence also comes as rumors swirl about a pending shakeup of the Penguins roster.
Nick Kypreos, of Hockey Night in Canada, was the first to float the possibility of Letang’s involvement in the shakeup. “Letang’s name is out there,” said Kypreos.
Though, if taken literally, that only means someone, somewhere said it was a possibility. Kypreos did not explicitly say Letang is being shopped.
Scouts at PPG
Unless the Penguins are coy and no longer list scouts on the press box seating chart, for the second straight game, there will be zero scouts.
Follow @pghhockeynow and @budmoonshine for updates.
Tonight we will get a good look at the Penguins heart. Mike Sullivan said the Christmas break should include soul-searching. We will see if the Penguins find their swagger or if they turn the key and nothing happens…
If you can predict which, you’re probably more of a psychic than I.