CRANBERRY — In case you’re just joining us, the Pittsburgh Penguins are in a spot of trouble. They’ve lost five of six games and have struggled mightily to score despite at least four Hall of Famers in their lineup playing at a high level.
With a 3-6-0 record, the latest loss hit hard. The Penguins fumbled away at least a point by allowing a shorthanded breakaway goal with 13 seconds remaining. Emotions seemed to bypass disappointment Monday night, careening toward disheartened.
The mood was a little better Tuesday at practice, which is where Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson offered what might be the best explanation of the recent struggles.
Coach Mike Sullivan and others in the locker room have touted the number of scoring chances. Sullivan said his team had carried a lot of the play over the first nine games, and he was trying to balance the projected success with the tangible failure.
Pettersson also towed the company line about focusing on encouraging signs rather than the negativity promulgated by the scoreboard.
“I think it comes in different ways,” Pettersson said. “I think some games we’ve been attacking so hard, and we kind of lose our head a little bit and getting frustrated that we don’t score, and then we’ve kind of lose our head, like I said, giving breakaways two on ones or whatever.”
That might be the best answer given.
The defenseman has been part of the Penguins’ breakdowns, too. The Penguins apply pressure, then give up a Grade-A scoring chance. Those chances haven’t been equal to the chances the Penguins are generating, but they’ve been easy goals, breakaways, tap-ins, and wide-open looks at full speed.
“At some point, you got to get results. And I think one thing that we’ve been talking about is the looks we get we give them — it’s too good of looks,” Pettersson said. “So, we’re playing well, and our scoring chances are way more than they’ve had (but) the looks we’ve given them have been way too high. (We have to) find a way to limit those.”
There was the Dallas loss, three games back, in which they gave up a seemingly endless string of odd-man rushes.
So, despite the plethora of puck possession, the second-most shots per game in the NHL, and a wealth of talent, why haven’t the Penguins been able to finish?
“I don’t know, I haven’t had too many chances,” joked Jeff Carter.
Pittsburgh Penguins Lines?
In one drill focused on quick play and multiple nets on the same side of the ice, the Penguins’ lines appeared to be the same.
However, in a more expansive offensive zone drill, the lines featured significant changes.
Reilly Smith dropped to the third line with Lars Eller and Radim Zohorna, while Drew O’Connor slipped into the top-six on the left of Evgeni Malkin. Perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into it because, on one shift, Jake Guentzel dropped to the fourth line, and we know that’s not happening.
The seven defensemen rotated, so there was nothing to glean from the pairings. It’s your guess what we’ll see on Wednesday or in San Jose later this week.
Coach Mike Sullivan
Sullivan addressed several players who criticized their own play Monday, including goalie Tristan Jarry.
“I just think he’s a stand-up guy, you know? And I think all of our players are. We’re all taking ownership and responsibility for where we’re at,” said Sullivan. “That’ doesn’t surprise me (that Jarry critiqued his play). These are proud guys. They’re also good people, and they take responsibility for their own circumstances. So it doesn’t surprise me at all when a player like Tristan takes some ownership of his game or Geno — I read some comments — takes some ownership for certain situations. I just think that’s the type of people that we have.”