You can’t win them all, even if you really, really want. For the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, which had nearly as many recent minor-league forwards as NHL forwards, to squash first-place teams and last year’s President’s Trophy winner in a five-game winning streak was impressive.
Most winning streaks do not end in impressive ways, nor did the Penguins’ streak as they chased the game in the second period, and chaos ensued in their 7-5 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday at the TD Garden.
Here’s the Penguins full report card and Xs and Os breakdown.
“I thought we competed hard most of the night. But we can play the game a whole lot smarter with a whole lot more attention to detail…,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “So, for me, that was the case. It was off faceoffs. It was both some of the decisions we made with the puck and then our positioning and the details without the puck. We just weren’t good enough in the second period in particular.”
The Washington Capitals and New York Islanders certainly won’t cry for the Penguins who charged to the top of the division before the loss on Saturday.
The Penguins spotted Boston five goals in that second period. The interesting things to note are how the Penguins didn’t defend it and how Boston did it. They flooded the net area. Boston planted their flag in the dirty zone and attacked the Penguins.
“We talked about it. We knew they were going to do that, just shoot from everywhere, get guys to that, and clearly created a chance for them (Saturday),” defenseman Cody Ceci said. “So we were prepared for it. We just didn’t handle it very well.”
The Penguins more reliable defensemen made the biggest mistakes. Brian Dumoulin and John Marino were caught a few times.
The Penguins allowed Boston to pull within the games-in-hand, as the Penguins lead Boston by seven points, but Boston has four games in hand.
The Penguins do have a 12 point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers. Still, Philadelphia has three games in hand, so the Penguins playoff cushion is about six points (give or take one point for tiebreaker variances).
Pittsburgh Penguins Regroup
Sometimes, teams can be victims of their own success. Like running downhill, eventually, you begin to run too fast and stumble. Though it sure is easier to run downhill than straight up it.
Not all losses are bad losses. Sometimes, a loss can settle things or reset things. The Penguins built a healthy cushion in the standings, and Saturday’s wild game shouldn’t undo that.
“Sometimes the mistakes that are made are–I like to use the phrase ‘mistakes of enthusiasm’–We’re trying to do the right things. Sometimes we’re trying to do a little bit too much, and we get ourselves in trouble,” Sullivan said. “We’ve got to make sure that we keep the game simple in certain circumstances so that we don’t leave ourselves vulnerable to a transition game or a turnover where we don’t have the ability to recover.”
Neither Teddy Blueger nor Tristan Jarry dressed for the game, despite both participating in practice on Friday. The Pittsburgh Penguins have the New York Rangers on Tuesday. Fun fact–the Penguins are undefeated this season with exactly two days of rest.
If a team plays hard, the occasional clunker is acceptable. The Pittsburgh Penguins played hard on Saturday but indeed turned in a clunker. Don’t underestimate how desperate the Boston Bruins became. Their head coach threatened jobs because whispers were mounting that big organizational changes could be coming if things didn’t improve.
“I thought our compete for the most part was hard, especially in the second half of the third period,” Mark Jankowski, who had a goal and an assist, said. “We never gave up. We kept we kept pushing. So we have to keep our foot on the gas there.”
Boston did win the President’s Trophy as the league’s top point-getter last season. They’re not exactly a team winless in 18.
“Today’s a little bit of a setback. We’re disappointed. You know, listen, our expectation is we’re going to go into every game like we’re going to win,” Sullivan said. “But there’s a lot of good teams, and there’s a lot of good players. We’re just going to have to learn through the experiences and just try to become better as a group and get ready for that one, that next one right in front of us.”