The Pittsburgh Penguins were to rebound from the ugly drubbing by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Saturday. The Penguins were to get to their game, win puck battles and show a hard compete level. Instead, the Penguins hit the snooze alarm and told the teacher the dog ate their homework. Fans didn’t walk, they ran for the exits as the New Jersey Devils dominated the still lifeless and flightless Penguins, 5-1 at PPG Paints Arena.
“Some of the most frustrating games of my career,” said Penguins goalie Matt Murray.
“Everything is frustrating right now,” said Patric Hornqvist.
The assembled media waited for 10 minutes to speak with Sidney Crosby. Uncharacteristically, it was another 20 minutes before head coach Mike Sullivan showed up. Disgust was thick in the air, even some tried to avoid it.
Patric Hornqvist and Sullivan both trumpeted the need to “work together.” Take that for what you will.
On the ice, New Jersey simply adopted the same strategy every Eastern Conference team has adopted since the Penguins triumphantly returned from their undefeated western Canada road trip. New Jersey fastidiously got back on defense, clogged the scoring zones and yielded the perimeter to the Penguins who cherished it like a rookie prospector who found a brick of iron pyrite (fools gold).
The stats and advanced stats through the first two periods favored the Penguins but there were few Oohs or Ahhs from the home crowd. No, the disappointed awws far outnumbered the near misses and good chances.
Toss stats from this one away. The one which told the real story was the scoreboard and the empty arena nearly halfway through the third period.
Team Effort: F
The Penguins did not produce any tangible positives on which to hang their hats. No rushes. No cycling. They did not make things tough on the New Jersey Devils. The Devils dictated the type of play and the Penguins again complied.
Teams are packing the zone against the Penguins and allowing them to get frustrated and the Penguins are complying.
Bottom-Six: All Courses Incomplete
Not even Zero-point-zero. The animal house crew of the Penguins bottom-six has been brutal. Absolutely brutal.
Sheahan. Cullen. Rust. Grant. Sprong.
Just nothing doing. The fourth line with Grant and Sprong chased the puck on the Devils first goal. Actually, it was Sprong who collapsed to double cover Grant’s man–J.S. Dea. By collapsing low, Sprong left the point open and…bang. Goal.
This is why Sprong cannot play with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin; not until Sprong is a reliably safe bet to make the right coverage.
The Devils second goal was against the Penguins’ third line. The Penguins collapsed towards the net and left Ben Lovejoy open. Lovejoy’s soft wrister, which may or may not have been able to break glass, slipped through two Penguins defenders before being tipped by Boyle.
Matt Murray: C
Murray made plenty of big saves. However, he is frustrated. Boyle’s first goal may have been the result of an incomplete butterfly from Murray. His pads were back, not out, which made him small. It could be Murray’s technique–he’s not a butterfly goalie–or it could have been a mistake.
But Murray definitely felt like he could have had a couple of them. He’s a brutally honest guy. When it’s not his fault, he’ll explain what happened. Tonight, he owned a couple of them, so PHN gives him a C.
This is the crew which is getting frustrated and flailing about. The Penguins need this line to drive offense, and they are, but they are also the first to abandon ship. Malkin’s ghastly turnover at center ice led to Boyle’s second goal.
Olli Maatta-Jamie Oleksiak: F
If you see the 2017-18 version of Maatta, both he and the Penguins would like to speak with him. Maatta’s struggles continued and Monday, he and Oleksiak were in the eye of the storm, all night. They were directly involved in all three Devils even strength goals. Malkin hung them out to dry on the second, and Sprong hung them out on the first, but the goals were only part of the story.
No part of their game was cohesive.
Actually, very little of the Penguins game was cohesive.