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Penguins React to Another Loss to Rangers; What’s Legit, What is Not?

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Mike Matheson, New York Rangers

Whistling past the graveyard. It’s a dark turn of phrase meant to denote denial in the face of a difficult task. The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t yet whistling dixie on their way past the headstones, but they exclusively highlighted the positive after their third straight loss and third straight loss to the New York Rangers.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Penguins had more scoring chances (26-17) and more high-danger opportunities (13-7) than the Rangers.

I’m generally a believer in the scoring chance stat (not so much Corsi), but even after a full rewatch of the Penguins loss, the Rangers controlled the game. If the game is played 10 times, the Rangers will win 10.

However, head coach Mike Sullivan disagreed.

“I thought we played hard. I thought it was an even game. You know, it was a low-event game, especially the first two periods. The scoring chances on both sides were in single digits. I thought our team competed hard,” Sullivan said.

The Pittsburgh Penguins saving grace was two new defense pairings because John Marino was out, and Sidney Crosby left a crater at the top of the lineup by missing the game will illness.

The Rangers had their top players. The Penguins did not.

Perhaps the speed dynamic will change when Jason Zucker and Brock McGinn are in the lineup, too.

“I mean, I’m not concerned. I think tonight was a tight game. We battled hard. We gave ourselves a chance to come back. You know, there are little areas that we have to get better. But overall, there were not many scoring chances on both sides, and their goalie did a good job o key moments,” Kris Letang said. “No concern. We have to keep preparing to enter the playoff and feel confident with ourselves.”

That’s the ideal, yes.

Head coach Mike Sullivan bristled at when asked about containing the Ranger rush. He wasn’t in a mood to diagram plays for the media, which is fair.

That’s my job, eh?

The pair of Rangers goals had some common themes, but each had their own breakdown, too. The goals were the result of not creating pressure on the forecheck. Both goals involved failures to “track back.” The Penguins forwards lost their assignments in the process of chasing the play. And both goals ultimately included an uncovered player with the puck.

“We did have numbers back. We’ve got to sort the coverages out. There’s a lot of details that go into it. I’m not interested in explaining it…but we can be better in those instances,” Sullivan said.

For the record, Natural Stat Trick shows the Penguins had more shots around the net, too.

But it was another loss down the stretch to a top team. That’s two to Colorado. Three to New York. A split of two games with Carolina.

“I thought we played well in all those games. You know, like every one of those games could have gone either way. The one in Colorado… We couldn’t get that one to tonight. Like I said, it was tight. We could have could have come back in the third with the chances,” Letang said. “The guys are fighting, they’re working hard and (showed) a lot of character. They went to war tonight and to try to get those points. But like I said, there’s little things that we have to improve and I think they’re all correctable.”

Yet the Doom & Gloom crowd was handed a feast, like a Ruth’s Chris buffet without a price tag.

The Rangers crowed. Igor Shesterkin taunted the Penguins as they belatedly left the ice. The Penguins fired 40 shots on Colorado goalie Darcy Kuemper but were selective–too often looking for better shots (again)–against Shesterkin. The Penguins eventually hit 30 shots on Thursday night, but they trailed for nearly 40 full minutes, never getting back to even once New York scored.

“It’s good, I think we’ve played a couple of good games in a row and I think it’s motivation for us to get back in the win column,” Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry said. “I think we’ve been doing the right things. I just don’t think we’ve been getting the bounces and some of the points in the last couple of games. But I think the team’s been playing really well and I know that it’ll turn around.”

The unanimous positivity stands in contrast to the anger which touched off the “March of the Penguins” in 2016. A tough loss to the Washington Capitals lit an angry fire which burned for three months.

The Bright Side?

The Pittsburgh Penguins did get scoring chances on Igor Shesterkin and the New York Rangers. They did so without their top center, Sidney Crosby, who pivots their dominant line.

Evgeni Malkin was not as good between the top wingers, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. He didn’t have a shot on goal.

They passed up shots and opportunities. That’s a mindset which can change.

They made defensive mistakes. Those can be corrected.

Evan Rodrigues had nine shots on goal.

Mike Matheson was all over the ice. He looked like a top-flight defenseman.

The Dark Side

The Rangers were faster.

The Rangers netted their opportunities, and the Penguins were again left to take solace in getting chances.

Igor Shesterkin affects the Penguins play in a negative way. They’re not trying to make him work, or interested in playing ugly, they’re searching for that can’t miss opportunity. Those usually become missed opportunity.

You can judge if things are trending in the right direction but they are running out of time to correct those mistakes, or improve little areas. Their opponents aren’t saying the same thing.

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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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GBG
GBG
1 month ago

Ok, you promised me something about defensive pairings and I didn’t see it — I’m out of the country and couldn’t watch the game, so I’d love to know what you meant by that!

Kris
Kris
1 month ago
Reply to  GBG

There was not two changes as he said. marino was out and so Friedman took Marino’s spot next to the human pylon Marcus Pettersson. Sunday, Matheson played with Ruhwedel. the only change is they are not the 2nd pair and Marino/Marcus are our $8-million dollar 3rd pairing.

Wasnt
1 month ago

So your saying there’s a chance

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
1 month ago

Bullshit! Sullivan said they played hard. Well your being well paid to play hard every game. You win or you lose. If we go out in the first round Sullivan should be fired and big changes to the roster should be made!

Chase Cranson
Chase Cranson
1 month ago

They are going to be eliminated in the first round sorry to say they are no alonger a strong playoff team just an average team must start the rebuilding

Kris
Kris
1 month ago

Roar, Get off my lawn!!!

Katz
Katz
1 month ago

When you look up Coveted Easy Peasy playoff opponent = Pittsburgh Penguins since 2019.

When you look up , ‘ I like our group’, ‘I like our compete level ‘ , ‘We show a lot of character’ ‘We need to play to our identity ‘=

Mike Sullivan talking points after series losses.

The roster when fully healthy has serious voids and has has serious voids and the reason for the voids are all self inflicted.

Kris
Kris
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

eh, I don’t know about that last comment. the team is paper thin on talent, hence the issues when you don’t have 3 of our top 12 forwards and one of your defenseman missing from the line-up. Let’s see how they do when/if they can get Angello, Hallendar and Heinen off the ice.

Stephen Powanda
Stephen Powanda
1 month ago
Reply to  Kris

Injuries are a part of the game.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

You were so excited two weeks ago.

Katz
Katz
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Fisher

Yes I loved the Rakell acquisition. Loved getting rid of Simon. My frustration goes to the past few First Round losses and the non response in terms of adding some character/Jam. Isn’t that was Burke said, Truculence? Let’s see when Washington comes in if the try to run Pgh.

The Rangers can play it any way you want. Pgh needs a perfect storm, outstanding goalkeeping , no injuries to the top two lines or pairs , and some breaks. And Sullivan’s stubborn adherence to a identity that is now outmatched by many is troubling.

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Katz

Every team, even the deepest, needs those things in playoffs that are as rigorous as the NHL’s. I do agree with your last statement. A one and done for the fourth straight time would almost certainly force changes to the Penguins style of play in the offseason. We’ll see how the rest of the season plays out.

Lisa Nath
Lisa Nath
1 month ago

It seems Igor is in their head like price from Montreal was. Not a good recipe for winning . And is Sullivan so positive because he believes their confidence is fragile ? Not trending in a good direction right now and you can’t rely on flipping on a switch

Mike Kirkell
Mike Kirkell
1 month ago

With respect Dan, Crosby was just as impotent with Guentzel and Rust the last time the Pens played at MSG (without Malkin) as Malkin was with them last night, not to mention the two home games against the Rangers. No ES goals from the top 6 in 4 games. Just 4 goals total, and only 1 at ES from Brian Boyle deflecting a point shot when there was a double screen. So, how exactly is “Malkin did nothing against the Rangers with Crosby’s wingers” a “bright side” item when Crosby hasn’t produced at ES with his wingers against the Rangers… Read more »

Ryan
Ryan
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Kirkell

It’s a ridiculous…and thoroughly predictable narrative to blame Malkin for that loss. He sucked and they lost 3-0. Crosby sucked two weeks ago and they lost 5-1. In between they lost 3-2 in a game they were never in danger of winning. They can’t beat the Rangers straight up. It’s that simple. Their “speed game” looks pathetic and slow against that team. It is what it is. The other stupid thing tossed out in the 412 daily is the contention that Crosby isn’t a problem in the playoffs. Or that 59-17-88 isn’t. That’s just dumb. They get locked down and… Read more »

Mike Kirkell
Mike Kirkell
1 month ago

This smells like a one and done again because they don’t have the horses to pull it off Sullivan’s way against a team that traps or runs a variation of it (like the Avs and Rangers have been). The defensemen collectively don’t skate to pressure and play with ice in their vein (and your worst guys need to be average). Letang and Matheson? Sure. But everyone else is below average on a good day and a train wreck on a bad one. Who’s the Pens third best defenseman right now? Yikes. Forwards? Unreliable to a man covering for pinching defensemen.… Read more »

DaGama
DaGama
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Kirkell

Enjoyed reading your well reasoned analysis.

rjdetroit
rjdetroit
1 month ago

This team is a joke anymore,get tired of hearing we need to do this or we have to learn to play 60 mins bla, bla, bla, these guys have been playing this game all their lives and if they haven’t learned yet move on. And where are the stars that are supposed to step up and lead by example? They play better when half the starters aren’t playing and there a lot quicker too.Nobody steps up anymore, this team has no personality and there’s a lot of players collecting pay checks that shouldn’t be. Will never make it past the… Read more »

Ujn Hunter
1 month ago

Just get one of the Pens to go all Chris Kreider on Igor in Game 1. Problem solved.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago

The SOG breakdowns for this game were in the ballpark. Here’s overlooked stat that few know or talk about: Shesterkin ranks No. 3 in High Danger Save Percentage (minimum: 20 games played), while Jarry checks in at 32nd overall. There is a reason why one will win the Vezina Trophy this season, while the other is average at best. BTW, it’s time for the Ol’ Two-Niner to give Shesterkin a lot more credit rather than continually tell us that he’s vulnerable and lucky and blah, blah, blah. His whining insults real hockey fans and reduces whatever credibility he has left.

Last edited 1 month ago by Paul
Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

What’s a real hockey fan? Someone who agrees with you all the time? It’s quite alright for others to have an opinion different than yours an still be a “real” hockey fan.

Paul
Paul
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Fisher

A real hockey fan knows the Penguins have scored four goals in 12 periods against Shesterkin this season, and three came on the power play. That’s not luck, brah. (And, no, I have never been a Rangers fan.)

JICS
JICS
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

They put Sid on the point for one PP – that’s the one he scored the beautiful slap shot on, then it was back to Malkin on the point – and the sequence went back to “Letang to Malkin, to Letang, to Malkin, to Letang, to Malkin” until I was dizzy ( & sick)! What I would like to know is if this is Sid’s decision, or Sullivan’s. When it isn’t “working”, they better fix it, and like NOW!

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

Everyone who follows, supports, and cheers for the Pens are fans. Don’t hand me that “real” fan bullcrap. It doesn’t take a “real” fan to use your term to realize the Pens have had trouble scoring against the Rangers. And no one said anything about luck. Further, I couldn’t care less whether you support the Pens, Rangers, or anyone else for that matter. I don’t recall me saying anything about who you root for.

Ryan
Ryan
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul

If you’re worried about what Phil bourque and/or Bob errey say…then you need to get out of the market and watch some other hockey for perspective.

They say the same false, stupid things all the yinzer day. Like there’s some “conspiracy” against Letang so he doesn’t win trophies. Nope…just isn’t good enough.

Hatrick Pornqvist
Hatrick Pornqvist
1 month ago

So Dan, Geno was sick last week and only missed a game I think? And now Sid, and Marino. When I get sick it’s not for two days and I’m certainly not playing pro hockey. I’m on the couch watching movies, and that’s a big ask. What are the chances there’s a bug going around and a lot of the team is playing through it? They don’t look the same. Biggest thing I have noticed is the puck races in the offensive zone. Not only are we not winning them, we aren’t even getting in them. Something is just off.… Read more »

ric jefferies
ric jefferies
1 month ago

Great commentary Dan, thanks !

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