Penguins’ Failures vs. Islanders Mean Doing Things Differently This Time
The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost each of their three games against the New York Islanders this season. The last two have been particularly hard to accept, because the Penguins significantly outplayed New York, only to lose after forking over a third-period lead in dramatic ways.
On Feb. 17 and again on Feb. 20, the Penguins should have claimed four points and put distance between themselves and the Islanders in the standings. Instead, they put the Islanders in a playoff spot.
In the Feb. 17 collision at UBS Arena, the Islanders scored a pair of third-period goals, including Zach Parise’s game-winner with less than three minutes remaining. The Penguins fired 44 shots on Illya Sorokin but lost, 5-4.
The Islanders scored three third-period goals (including an empty-netter), and a 2-1 Penguins lead became a 4-2 loss on Feb. 20. The Penguins managed to fire even more shots, 46, but scored less.
The frustration after each was palpable.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan admitted there would be some changes in tactics and approach against New York Thursday at PPG Paints Arena, though he did it in his own language.
“Learning opportunities” is how Sullivan phrased it.
“I think we can learn through experiences. There were some things that we did really well that brought us success in those games,” Sullivan said Wednesday. “And then there are other areas where, if we manage the game better, we could potentially have gotten a different result. And so, on both sides of that (emotion and tactically), I think there are learning opportunities for us.”
The Penguins trail New York by one point for the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and have three games in hand. Including Thursday, the Penguins have 18 games remaining. Statistically, the Penguins, who have won five of their last six, are likely to qualify for the playoffs.
But not many are overconfident regarding the Penguins’ playoff chances. The team has been prone to losing streaks, making even the most casual observers wonder if they are in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes instead of being Stanley Cup hopefuls. Those streaks have followed tough or disheartening losses, such as a pair of Ls to Carolina in later December.
“I think we understand where we’re at and the importance of these games. The Islanders are another team that we’re battling for a playoff spot and, by nature of having fewer games; the games take on that much more meaning,” Sullivan said. “And so I know our guys will be excited for the challenge. (The Islanders are) a really good hockey team, and we’ve got to bring our very best to put ourselves in a position to succeed.
“Without a doubt, I think there are learning opportunities through the experiences of already having played them. And it wasn’t too long ago, either. So there’s some familiarity on both sides.”
The Islanders got an early jump on the NHL trade deadline and added Bo Horvat before the games against the Penguins last month. The big-name trade target from the Vancouver Canucks had a goal and an assist on Feb. 20. He is the Islanders’ top center and has been the focal point since Mathew Barzal suffered an injury a few weeks ago.
But what changes, er, what the “learning opportunities” will provide for the Penguins Thursday are unspoken. Sullivan not only avoided the word “change,” but, like most hockey coaches, he did not get into specific tactics, either.
The Penguins have just one win against the four teams ahead of them in the Metro Division. They’re winless in four against the Carolina Hurricanes (0-2-2) and in three against the New Jersey Devils (0-2-1), and Islanders (0-3-0). Their only victory was Dec. 20 against the New York Rangers.
There are plenty of learning experiences to draw from and a few changes to come.
The only changes that Sullivan needs to make (yet doesn’t have the cajones to do) is sit Carter in the press box.
Ok. We all get it. Cut Carter, Fire Hextall, where is FSG?
Move on for a few weeks.
No can do. His boss hired him, remember? #Hexed
Sully with all due respect you are stating the obvious and maybe the boys arent listening to your mantra because you say the same thing over and over again. Perhaps maybe don’t say anything to press or players all that needs to be said has been said. The boys tend to be impetuous , they are going to do what they are going to do not knowing what they’ve done right or wrong to get the results they’ve gotten. So enjoy the game . When the student is ready , the master appears.
I don’t count overtimes as losses! Carolina and Jersey and the Isles all play for overtime the entire season. Pens have played some great defensive games and won so that is what I guess we will see. Liked to see some clean open ice hits from the Pens tonight! Sullivan says nothing every time! Gets a little boring! Go Pens!
Count me among the skeptics. A 1-7-3 record against division foes begs the question, what took you so long to realize a change is needed?
Same lineup as always is my guess.
Two fast NYI goals in the 1st and then back to the usual D pairings.
After that, forward lines peppering Sorokin with low danger shots while there’s no presence in front of the opponents goal.
You mean S.O.S. — Soft, Old and Slow.