Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jared McCann who is currently playing center in the absence of Sidney Crosby had a little disgust in his voice when he spoke to reporters followig the Penguins 3-2 OT loss to the New York Rangers Tuesday night. The TV cameras captured a little snarl from the typically upbeat forward. The Penguins keep coming back, but the reasons they have to come back are getting under their skin, especially after a loss.
The phrase, “there’s no excuse,” was repeated by multiple Penguins. And it wasn’t said dismissively.
There are two ways to spin the Pittsburgh Penguins recent trend. The Penguins have come back from three goals twice and two goals twice in their last four games. They’ve shown resilience and grit to overwhelm teams, dominate the puck and score goals. They’ve also shown an inexplicable lethargy early in games and a mediocre game until they trail.
The glass is more than half full as the Penguins earn points including the loser point Tuesday night against the New York Rangers in a 3-2 OT Loss.
“It’s been the same problem in the last three games. We need to be better,” said Evgeni Malkin who is the Penguins leader in the absence of Crosby. “In the first 20 minutes, we were soft. We have to understand if we want to win we have to play better. In the last 40 minutes we played good, but it’s a 60-minute game.”
If you know hockey, you know the word soft is a four-letter word equal to the worst of the worst, in any language.
The figurative glass isn’t empty, but the glass isn’t full, either. The Penguins task is made doubly difficult without top defenseman Kris Letang who drives the offense from the backside, without Patric Hornqvist who is the electric current for the team’s energy and ever-present net-front warrior, and now they are without all-time great Sidney Crosby.
Things won’t be easy without the trio, but the Penguins have proven an ability to rally and win games. Even without Crosby, Letang, and Hornqvist, the Penguins are probably a better team than New York but gave a point to their division rivals.
“We’re frustrated because we know we can play better. That’s what it comes down to. We can’t keep having starts like this and we know that. For a lot of us, it’s frustrating. We have to fix it,” said Jared McCann, who later expounded. “We need to come to the rink prepared.”
The Game Flow chart on NaturalStatTrick shows the same story.
Penguins goalie Matt Murray can be a little dry with the media even in good times. He too wore the scowl of a player who understands the Penguins are making their job even more difficult by spotting opponents nearly insurmountable leads before furious rallies.
“It’s unfortunate. The game got away from us in the first period. It’s awesome to see how we battled back and unfortunate we couldn’t get the extra (point),” said Murray. “There’s no excuse, we’ve got to be ready. That’s all there is to it.”
The Penguins spotted Boston and the New York Islanders a 3-0 lead. They cut their generosity to two goals against Chicago on Saturday and New York Tuesday. Of course, Chicago and the Rangers are not nearly as good as Boston and the Islanders, either.
In each, the Penguins looked like the worst team in the league ready for a long vacation during the first period, only to look dominant in the subsequent periods.
Head coach Mike Sullivan also dropped the no excuse phrase into his comments.
“We’ve got to have a better start no matter who is in our lineup. So there’s no excuse there, we all have to be better,” Sullivan said.
Perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins can feast on lowly New Jersey on Friday, provided they start the game when the first puck drops, not for the last 40 minutes.