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Penguins Takeaways: Volatility, Carryover & Sam Poulin in Loss to Flames

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Evgeni Malkin

CALGARY, Alberta — It was not the Pittsburgh Penguins’ best effort. One day after getting shelled by the Edmonton Oilers, the Penguins were quickly put away by the Calgary Flames. The Penguins trailed 3-0 by the early second period and never challenged, though they fired 21 shots in the second period.

The Penguins lost, 4-1, to the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

The second-period shot total was the highlight of the Penguins’ night, but they were again overwhelmed in the third period.

The Penguins lacked urgency in the final 20 minutes. Things had been decided again.

At least it wasn’t as bad as Monday.

“I think we had a great start. But tonight, we knew (Calgary) was going to push hard — and it should have been expected,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “We should have played the simple game. We got behind, and in this league, it’s tough against a team like this. It’s tough to come back.”

They faltered in all three zones. In all phases. And they were outplayed again.

Pittsburgh Penguins Line Shuffles & Edmonton Hangover

Injuries forced Penguins coach Mike Sullivan to shuffle the lines. LW Jason Zucker was unavailable after suffering an injury against Edmonton on Monday. To insert Poulin, a center, into the lineup, Sullivan elevated Bryan Rust to Sidney Crosby’s left win, Jeff Carter to Evgeni Malkin’s right wing, and Poulin took the third-line pivot.

Three lines. Three big changes.

Zero results.

“Obviously, we didn’t like the way we started. It was kind of a carryover from the last game, but I really like the response after that,” said Sullivan. “I thought the second period, we turned the tide a little bit. We had a lot of chances. We get outscored in the period. That’s the irony of it. But I thought in the second period, we were the better team.

“There are some encouraging signs, (but) our expectations are much higher.”

The Penguins’ lines were not a reason for poor play, but the new lines didn’t help the mistakes and chaos.

What is Going Wrong?  

The Penguins aren’t on their toes. Their edge and crisp attacks have become high-risk passes and overconfident rushes. The Penguins aren’t that much better than teams (no team is in the salary-cap era) to play “Globetrotters” hockey, yet the Penguins may have been a little spoiled by the four wins, in each of which they scored six goals.

Forwards aren’t covering for defensemen. Defensemen are getting overly aggressive.

And the team has been prone to defensive-zone gaffes, like three players converging below the goal line without any net-front coverage on the first Calgary goal.

Or four wide at the offensive blue line when Sam Poulin tried to stickhandle through defenders and turned it over for the second Calgary goal.

After a couple of breakdowns, the bad bounces are magnified — such as two goals through heavy traffic.

“This year, we’ve had volatility in our game. Even within games, period-to-period. In some periods, we look really good. Some period, it’s a struggle,” Sullivan said. “Just the volatility is something — we’ve got to do a better job of bringing more consistency. And I think a lot of that involves controlling the momentum and simplifying the game.”

Sam Poulin

Poulin earned his first NHL point, and all seemed pleased with his effort.

“I thought Sam played well. He brought us a lot of energy. Obviously, your first NHL game, you never forget those experiences,” Sullivan said. “That’s a big deal. We’re just really encouraged by how far he’s come and how this game is evolving. He’s earned the opportunity.”

However, Poulin’s turnover led to the second goal and was a bad decision. He got caught playing “Penguins” hockey instead of simple hockey.

He also took a bad slashing penalty which led to Jonathan Huberdeau’s power-play goal early in the second. That was probably the back-breaking goal. The Penguin outplayed Calgary in the middle frame, but with a 3-0 lead, Calgary could trade possession for a defensive position, which it did.

Still, the Penguins finally had a first-round pick make it to the show, and he had a few scoring chances, too. He’ll get better. He wasn’t out of place.

“Yes, it’s really crazy. I learned that afternoon, actually, at the meeting. It was probably 12 when I learned that, so it was a quick turn of events, but I was glad to be here for my first game,” Poulin said.

He immediately called his family, who had to race to Ottawa for a flight to be in attendance. They made it for Sam Poulin’s Pittsburgh Penguins debut.

So, too, did WWE star Brett “the Hitman” Hart, who walked past the Poulin family sharing a moment.

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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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ric jefferies
ric jefferies
1 month ago

Darryl Sutter another favorite coach of mine, right next to John Tortorella. I Think when teams are struggling it’s ok for players and coaches to excuse themselves from the press when they are asked to comment on game analysis, I would imagine they are replaying the tape in the head trying to figure out exactly what happened. So often they say silly things or state the obvious which in reality isn’t the problem but the result of a problem of which no one has identified. Sometimes its time to replace instead of fix. All said enjoy every minute of watching… Read more »

rhodepop
rhodepop
1 month ago

Is Jason Zucker the new Beau Bennett?

Moe Ali
Moe Ali
1 month ago
Reply to  rhodepop

Or worse?

BillMaloni
BillMaloni
1 month ago

Injuries, back-to-back games, age, penalties poor defense, poor goaltending, missed scoring opportunities, the usual Sullivan coach talk.
Take your “excuse” pick. All were present, all will be there all year. Very disappointing performance.

Phil
Phil
1 month ago
Reply to  BillMaloni

What should sully say?? before we play 10 games. In a 6 month season it’s over for us we suck lol. Keep it into perspective its 2 games. Breaking news for you!!! we are going to lose more games going forward that happens in a long season. Geez everything will be fine. We stay the course get healthy everyone wanted young players to get a chance early in the season well here is that chance. There will be adjustments injuries a few losses its hockey. No team is perfect. These things happen but I believe in our coach our players… Read more »

Sjf928
Sjf928
1 month ago

At least Matheson and Marino could skate their way out of trouble and exit the zone. They better change some things or they will be bottled up for long stretches all season.

Rich Filardi
Rich Filardi
1 month ago

Like seeing Poulin playing-these are the players you to get in the line-up when the opportunity presents itself so he will be ready come march/april.

Last edited 1 month ago by Rich Filardi
Alan Smith
1 month ago

The Poulin slashing call was a joke on the replay!

Pepper
Pepper
1 month ago

Hmmm. It can’t be a good thing when “Penguins hockey” is used as a pejorative in this article…while the team itself is constructed of players who like to play that same “Penguins hockey.”

The most concerning thing for me about these two games is that this was their first real test of the season. They did not perform well. They look like a team built to win in the regular season and then be beaten easily in the playoffs where there are no penalties and no open ice.

Phil
Phil
1 month ago
Reply to  Pepper

Really, so my perspective is not having guentzel and zucker hurt. But everyone on this comment section complained they needed to get tougher on the blueline. And they did with petry and rutta now I see comments saying atleast Matheson and Marino could skate out of trouble. This fanbase is beyond ridiculous. Just like everyone who wanted to trade jake after the islanders series saying hes not big enough for playoff hockey. It’s a luxury for fans to constantly change their minds about players and the team. Unfortunately as a coach of executive you must play with what you have.… Read more »

Sjf928
Sjf928
1 month ago
Reply to  Phil

Seeing the same mistakes and problems continue from the past 5 years and thinking this year will be different is “irrational !”

Edgar
Edgar
1 month ago
Reply to  Sjf928

Yea, this is my take. They keep losing in the first round and bringing back the same team. Weird. And even when we say “well, such and such happened and we shouldn’t have lost in the first round”, do we really think they are contenders? I just don’t get it. And I don’t feel “entitled”. I definitely feel very fortunate to be a fan of this team (since 1975), and would like to see them do different things.

Phil
Phil
30 days ago
Reply to  Edgar

What different things?? If you paid close attention to the team they were contenders last season if not for a bunch of unfortunate injuries they move on and beat the NYR so you cant dismiss those variables that took place in the playoffs its ignorant to do so. So losing in the 1st round is not the whole story to win the NHL playoffs you need health luck and very fortunate things to happen. Every season has been different and the losses for different reasons. But we had a 100 pt season. Nothing needed to be overhauled the team is… Read more »

Phil
Phil
1 month ago
Reply to  Sjf928

But that’s not accurate you generalization of the problems in the past and from two games this season is irrational. Everyone wanted them to get tougher to play against they went and got petry and rutta. Everyone said we are not tough enough in the playoffs and we need to stop the speed game it’s not 2016. So they trade Matheson who I personally liked and Marino. But no now everyone wants them back saying atleast they could skate out of trouble. My point!! it’s never good enough for some in this fan base. Same people who said trade jake… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Phil