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PHN Blog: This is Why the Penguins Can’t Have Nice Things



Pittsburgh Penguins game analysis, Florida Panthers

It has become as inexplicable as the reasons are unknowable. Only two teams in the NHL have been worse than the Pittsburgh Penguins when gaining a lead. The same sentence was true last season, too.

The Penguins have lost when leading by a goal 13 times, five times when leading by two goals, and once when leading by three goals. The statistics are courtesy of Given the circumstances and the Penguins’s talent, they might well be the worst in the league after losing in overtime twice in March when leading the Calgary Flames by two goals and the Colorado Avalanche by four.

Why? How?

“I wish we could figure it out because we probably wouldn’t be in this situation, right,” Jeff Carter told PHN before ending with a shrug. “We’ve shown flashes when we’re at our best that we can play with anybody and beat anybody. I don’t know.”

Indeed, asking around the Penguins locker room turns up head shakes, shrugs, and a few attempted answers. Still, no one has yet been able to confidently declare why a team so capable of getting leads is otherwise incapable of holding them.

If they don’t know why the mental lapses beget physical lapses, how can anyone? But the situation exists and has existed for two seasons.

The total is 19 games in which the Penguins have held the lead, including six games in which they’ve had a multiple-goal lead and lost in regulation. The better teams in the NHL generally squander two or three two-goal leads and none or one three-goal lead.

According to betting site Champs or Chumps, nine times, the Penguins have led in the third period and lost. It’s the fifth-worst figure in the league. The median is five.

You are the company you keep. Just imagine if the Penguins were in the middle of the pack and lost only five third-period leads. Yes, they would, in fact, be in the driver’s seat for third place in the Metro Division, or at least the wild card.

The Penguins trail the Philadelphia Flyers by seven points with two games in hand. It should be six points had they beaten Columbus.

What if the Penguins beat Calgary on March 3 instead of collapsing? Here’s a knife twist: Would Jake Guentzel still be a Penguins winger? Would the team have collapsed against Edmonton, Washington, and Boston?

The What-If game has exclusively gone against the Penguins this season. Their competition has predictably been weak. What few expected was the Penguins would be even weaker.

They’re out of the playoffs not because they lack talent and not because of bad luck but by their own hand. Last season, Sidney Crosby succinctly said, “We didn’t earn it.”

This season should come with an entirely different assessment.

There have been no career years except for a nice step forward by Drew O’Connor. Only Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust, and Lars Ellers have maintained their career norms.

The gifts the Penguins have given with blown leads and no-show losses have been only compounded by the extreme number of mistakes. The Penguins remain near the bottom of the league in giving up odd-man rushes, too.

How does a team like Columbus get so many odd-man rushes? How does a team like Columbus score just nine seconds after the Penguins took a two-goal lead on Saturday? How many teams have scored almost immediately after the Penguins lit the lamp?

While many focus on singular scapegoats, the reality remains that it’s been a team-wide problem.

And this is why the Penguins can’t have nice things.