Kris Letang said the Pittsburgh Penguins were ashamed of their performance Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.
Coach Mike Sullivan ignored an attempted softball question from Pittsburgh Hockey Now about his lineup changes at practice, instead choosing to direct attention toward his unhappiness with the team’s recent performances.
Both Letang and Sullivan passed up easy chances to turn forward, and that probably speaks more to the current mood. Sunday, the Penguins were little more than 12 hours from a humbling 7-0 loss to Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada, which was also president of hockey operations/GM Kyle Dubas’s ballyhooed return to Toronto.
It seemed the team still had a few axes to grind with themselves.
Sunday at Penguins practice, Sullivan shuffled the top defensive pairs, putting Ryan Graves with Erik Karlsson and Marcus Petterson with Kris Letang. What would Sullivan hope to see with new pairs?
“Some of it is — we’re not satisfied with where we’re at with what we’ve currently had. And we’re looking for options to try to create some change,” Sullivan said. “And so we’ll see where the pairs go. Those aren’t etched in stone by any stretch. I mean, we make decisions throughout the course of the game, depending on how people are playing, and performance matters.”
Get the full Penguins practice report here.
So, we may or may not see those shuffled pairs in a game. Saturday, Sullivan elevated P.O Joseph and then John Ludvig to play with Letang after Graves’s early first-period gaffe spotted Toronto winger Matthew Knies a breakaway and the game’s first goal.
After delivering a hard hit on Max Domi, Ludvig fought Knies a few minutes later. The scrap momentarily lifted the Penguins, but Toronto got the next goal. And the next. And so on.
The team slipped back to .500 and five points behind the Washington Capitals for the second wild card.
After a bad loss, teams will often attempt to turn the page and look to a brighter sunshine on the horizon. Tomorrow is another day. Learn from it and move on. You’ve heard the cliches.
Letang offered none on Sunday when asked about the mood of the team. It seems moving on was a little more difficult after a loss like that.
“(The mood) is not great. We just got spanked 7-0,” said Letang. “So everybody is pretty ashamed. That’s one (way) to put it. And you know, you never feel good after that.”
The Penguins did get some good news Sunday. Fourth-line center and penalty killer Noel Acciari rejoined the team as a full participant. Rickard Rakell was a full participant for the second straight practice. The Penguins penalty kill has struggled without Acciari, Bryan Rust, and Matt Nieto, slipping a few percentage points in a short time to 81.1%.
They’ve allowed nine power-play goals over the last eight games. Acciari should add an NHL presence in the bottom six, which has been largely silent, excluding Jeff Carter’s power play and shorthanded goals last Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes.
Otherwise, the self-flagellation was not yet completed by Sunday afternoon. After what Sullivan admitted was a humbling loss Saturday, perhaps that’s not a bad thing.