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Overconfidence & Suprise: Carter Admits What Hampered Penguins

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Jeff Carter

CALGARY, Alberta — The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost two games in a row. After the first period against the Calgary Flames Tuesday, the Penguins had been outshot, 58-22, over their last three periods and outscored, 7-0. First, the Edmonton Oilers, then the Calgary Flames unloaded a steady stream of shots and scoring chances.

In a region known for rodeos and prairies, the wide-open Penguins were bucked, but there was no barrel in which to hide.

They yielded 82 shots and 10 goals in two nights, giving their critics an arsenal for harsh criticism, although center Jeff Carter offered a measured and very human response.

“You definitely have to look at some things (from the last two games). If you look at our season to date, we were on a pretty good roll there,” Carter said. “Offensively, we had our way for the most part. Sometimes when that happens early, you kind of get in that mindset that everything will continue to go that way. And I think part of that … maybe we got caught in that a little bit here.”

Along with Stanley Cups, star players, and sellouts, perhaps expecting to score six goals is part of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ culture.

After all, they can score six on any given night.

But the Penguins’ ability to outscore opponents sometimes interferes with their ability to outplay them. Coach Mike Sullivan has used various Sullivan-isms to describe the phenomena, including “hope is not a strategy” and “we tried to outscore them.”

After bombarding the Arizona Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, LA Kings, and Columbus Blue Jackets with a total of 24 goals (six per game), Carter implied the Penguins thought they could flip that switch at any time, and the results would follow.

Overconfidence.

Defenseman Kris Letang’s postgame comments fell in line with the idea the Penguins were overconfident.

“I think we had a great start (Tuesday). But we knew (the Flames) were going to push hard. It should have been expected,” Letang said. “We should have played the simple game …”

Letang did not say the Penguins expected it. He said they should have expected it, and they should have played a simple game.

They did not.

Tuesday night, Sullivan noted the Penguins’ inconsistency and “volatility,” even from shift-to-shift. Call it an early-season adjustment. Untalented teams don’t score six goals four times in a week, nor do they get to roll unfettered through Stanley Cup contenders, as both Edmonton and Calgary are.

Contrary to the doom-and-gloomers, who seem to revel in the most dour proclamations, just as six goals isn’t the “real” Pittsburgh Penguins, neither is getting overwhelmed twice in Alberta. Consider the last couple of games a little wake-up call.

“We played two really good teams. I think if you look at our game in the last two nights … not our best. Not consistent games,” said Carter. “(We) ran up against top teams. And I think you’ve got to play 60 minutes. You can’t start good or have a good second period. It’s got to be a full 60, and we didn’t have that. That is pretty clear.”

And the Penguins know it.

“When you’re scoring six a night, it kind of gets you in that mode of, ‘You know, we can do it every night.’ And we have a team that could do it every night,” Carter said. “But I think at the start of the year, when we scored six goals, we were playing the right way. We were checking and creating our opportunities from our own end out, really, and then grinding teams down in the offensive zone.”

Simply put, the Penguins were expectant and a bit spoiled by their own success. Since they could score six, they assumed they would score six. They may have been surprised when opponents hung the big numbers on the scoreboard.

Carter’s simple and honest tone underscored the admission.

Carter’s locker-room comments to Pittsburgh Hockey Now also indicate the group realizes its mistake. The team has a day off in Vancouver Wednesday before facing the winless Vancouver Canucks Friday.

If the lesson is heeded, the Penguins could extend the misery in Vancouver. But if they don’t, it could inject a little unhappiness into their own room. The Penguins had their fun and paid for it with a hangover.

Now, they can get on with the task of finding the real Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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Donny D
Donny D
1 month ago

Herb Brooks would yes at the 80 Olympic Team, “You guys aren’t talented enough to win on talent alone.” The past few games show that even though they are wildly talented, the Pens still can’t win on talent alone.

Chris R
Chris R
1 month ago

They were also missing Guentzel.

Katherine Verbeke
Katherine Verbeke
1 month ago
Reply to  Chris R

and Zucker

Jackmccrory
Jackmccrory
1 month ago

Maybe they wouldn’t struggle so much if 58 would stop turning the puck over multiple times a game

JICS
1 month ago
Reply to  Jackmccrory

Letang isn’t turning the puck over more than Malkin is, but the problem is that he passes it to Malkin too much (especially on the PP) and Malkin turns it over again. I don’t know who is in charge of the top PP, but it is just pitiful! Malkin should not be the main shooter, that’s one thing for sure.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  JICS

I agree! Should have Rakell on the First power play unit and quit kissing Malkins you know what!

Eric
Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  Jackmccrory

And could you believe is the one talking about playing “a simple game”?!?!? He’s THE guy on that team the refuses to play the simple game, and it’s been like that for years!!!

Rob
Rob
1 month ago
Reply to  Jackmccrory

My thoughts exactly! Last time I looked at stats he had the worst in Plus Minus rating on the team.

Frank
Frank
1 month ago

I have been a Penguin fan since hockey came to Pittsburgh. Over the years it was surprising to see/hear the level of contempt much of the balance of the league has for this franchise. But for some time now I have come to see why. There is an arrogance about the team from the front office down to the last player on the NHL roster that seems to say “we are above it all, “special,” “outraged that all do not see our greatness.” This comment from Carter is in that same vein. How can any team be overconfident after 4… Read more »

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank

Totally agree. And these are players who have been in the league for a long time. So… they’re saying that they haven’t learned this lesson before? Sigh. Ah well. Here’s to hoping!

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Young

…like there isn’t a human element in professional sports hahaha. Go have a sad tea party with Frank.

maybeTROLLn
maybeTROLLn
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank

LMAOOO

Alan Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank

Easy Frank it is just a sport still after 50 years!

Mike Konopka
Mike Konopka
1 month ago

it’s funny that Letang is quoted. He has been the worst over the last 4 games. Unfortunately he hasn’t learning and he is consistently out of position and adds zero offensive production (open your eyes). After he was atrocious Monday, I was shocked he gave up a 2 x 1 on his first shift Tuesday (got lucky pucked rolled off calgary’s stick). But he was out of position again for first goal soon after.

Katherine Verbeke
Katherine Verbeke
1 month ago

Many of us fans thought they could flip the switch as well to score 6 goals! WE are so spoiled by the greatness of this group of players…. just sayin’

BillMaloni
BillMaloni
1 month ago

The good news/bad news is that it still is early.