The Pittsburgh Penguins had a game to build on by winning Thursday. In the locker room, they cited the lopsided shots and scoring chances of the first period, but that theme is wearing thin just eight games into the season. It seemed to be wearing thin with them, too. Mistakes, hot goaltending on one side and cold goaltending on the other, combined with a flaccid power play, delivered the fifth Penguins loss of a young season.
The Ottawa Senators converted chances, and Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry allowed a couple of stoppable goals (or soft, if you prefer). Ottawa beat the Penguins 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday.
The refrains and taking positives are probably not what anyone wants to read, yet, in this instance, it may hold a little bit of credence. The Penguins peppered Ottawa with 23 shots in the first period, including 19 scoring chances and eight high-danger pokes. But even they didn’t cling to that in the locker room.
There were a lot of eyes looking at the floor. The words were soft, without conviction.
These Penguins are looking for answers because they dominated for 20 plus minutes, yet didn’t get closer than 3-1 after 40 minutes.
All advanced stats courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com.
Sometimes, the goalie beats you.
When there’s a lid on the goal, every mistake is magnified. And, oh boy, did the Penguins make a few. Beyond Ottawa goalie Joonas Korpisalo significantly outplaying Jarry (and his own average baseline), the Penguins succeeded in several areas they’ve been lacking.
First, the good and the things the Penguins “liked about our game.”
The scoring chances were in the dirty areas. They got the puck low, worked the net front, and didn’t waste the pucks with quick, meaningless shots. As coach Mike Sullivan would say, they hung onto pucks.
They also played with energy and engagement. If they play that game 10 times, the Penguins probably win seven, if not more.
When the other goalie is a brick wall, discipline is paramount. The Penguins made mistakes. They pressed, especially in the third period, and something I didn’t notice, but Sullivan did.
“We’ve got to find a way to get it behind them. I think in the third period, we pressed as the period went on because we’re down a couple … I thought they defended really well in the third period and had numbers back,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think we helped ourselves. I thought we slowed it down a little bit in the third. I thought we tried to play a little bit quicker through the neutral zone, which would give us an opportunity to establish the game that we had established in the first period, for example. I just thought we played into their hands a little bit by slowing the game down from coming through the neutral zone.”
Defenseman Ryan Graves won’t get a good grade on the report card, nor will Jarry. Graves’s mistake in the first period turned an Ottawa two-on-three into a clean look (and goal) for Brady Tkachuk.
Structurally, the Penguins were pretty good, at least for the first half of the game. Obviously, trailing 3-0 will change the number of gambles, and the team has to take more chances to get back into the game.
The Penguins didn’t fall into a clear 1-2-2 as they did Thursday, but they didn’t have to, either. They had the puck. They had pressure. There was no reason to counterattack because the Penguins were already attacking.
“I think we did that–the forwards were all over the blue paint,” said dejected defenseman Kris Letang who sat in his locker stall, arms folded and often looking downward. “At some point. I don’t even think (Korpisalo) saw the puck. He was he was swimming in the crease. Sometimes it bounces in, sometimes it doesn’t. It stays out. It’s just a question of maybe keeping the same pace for 60 minutes.”
Still, the Penguins put two goals on Joonas Korpisalo, one coming in the waning seconds. That’s the goalie that the depth-starved Columbus Blue Jackets didn’t keep. The same that the depth-starved LA Kings chose not to keep to pay.
He robbed the Penguins for 25 or 30 minutes. Then the Penguins broke.
The effort erased the building block win over Colorado on Thursday. The larger issues, the mindsets and dejection expressed in the locker room, showed the Penguins are back to square one.
Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card
Let’s get the few bad grades out of the way. There’s no reason to belabor them.
Tristan Jarry: F
He has to stop at least one, if not two, of those goals.
Ryan Graves: D
He was primarily responsible for Ottawa’s second goal, though Jarry could have stopped it. Graves incorrectly converged on the puck carrier at the blue line despite existing coverage. Graves stepping forward allowed Tkachuk behind him.
Graves pinched in the second period, but he got too deep–beyond the passing lane. The pass missed, and he was on the wrong side of the puck, and chaos ensued until Ottawa scored. Fortunately, the goal was nullified due to offside, but those are mistakes he cannot make.
I thought they had some chances, but they were also on the wrong side of more chances. They had moments, but they had a steady diet of Ottawa’s scoring lines.
Grading on the curve, they were OK. They could have finished one of the several high-danger chances, such as Zohorna lowering his shoulder and plowing to the net unabated or O’Connor with a couple of rebound whacks.
Snake bitten. They thoroughly dominated. The line had 20 shots at even strength and yielded just five. They also had 18 scoring chances and a staggering nine high-danger chances. Yet somehow, they were on the ice for two goals against.
Those goals were not on the forwards.
“I thought we had a lot of chances, controlled a lot of play,” said Jake Guentzel. “But sometimes when that happens, you kind of get a little impatient sometimes.”
Power Play: Decline Them
The PP1 was as bad as it’s been. My unofficial count gave three of the four power play shots to PP2. The Penguins had momentum and were charging. Then…they got two power plays.
Both were momentum killers, and shortly after the second was Graves gaffe which made it 2-0. As Erik Karlsson said Wednesday morning, someone needs to take charge of it.
It’s just bad right now, and there are fewer signs of life, not more.