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Insider Only Can Penguin management, coaches count on this group to replicate last spring’s dominant play away from the puck?

Bad trends that could be the Penguins eventual downfall this season

“We were embarrassed out there tonight. All of us. It’s humbling when you go through it. My hope is that we learn from it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.” — Mike Sullivan on the Penguins 7-1 loss to the Capitals Wednesday night.

Everything that could have went wrong for the Penguins went wrong vs the Capitals.

I would be surprised if the coaching staff didn’t see a loss like this coming.

The Penguins have been playing with fire for much of the year in how many quality chances they are giving up.

It’s been subdued to a point because they have still been able to drive to play and have shown that championship quality in being able to find a another gear at critical moments in games and win hockey games they probably should have lost.

Because they broke through last season and won the Stanley Cup, it leads to a different approach in evaluating this hockey club this season.

The bad habits that have popped back up are concerning which have been a downfall in the past. This has become a lazy defensive team, notably the forwards through the neutral zone with poor angles/gaps that has the opposition winning the neutral zone vs Pittsburgh at ease.

The Penguins are taking a high amount of stick penalties because of lazy penalties without the puck that’s been a bad trend all season.

But, it’s just 16 games into the season and the Penguins won the Stanley Cup this season and are 10-4-2.

On the flip side, if these areas don’t get sured up just a bit, Pittsburgh will struggle to get out of the first couple rounds because teams have gained on them.

In some eyes, the Penguins have probably awarded themselves an entire season of it doesn’t matter how they look in the regular season as long as they get in.

That goes for players individually who had great post-season runs last season.

Because of his post-season play during the Cup run, does Phil Kessel get a free pass from many this regular season if what we’re seeing through the first 16 games is what you’re going to get?

Yeah he probably does.

The greatest challenge for Mike Sullivan this season was always going to be having his hockey club fully committed to a team game in all three zones (their play away from the puck) that made the Penguins so hard to beat down the stretch. It wasn’t just the Penguins speed that made them unique in winning the Stanley Cup. It was the attention to details and structure the entire team played.

Combine that with the speed they possessed and you had a special combination.

That isn’t there right now, which isn’t surprising because its October/November hockey but there’s also not enough evidence that this group, especially the core, has it built inside them to just flip a switch and transform back into the type of 200 ft team play that made the Penguins so dominant in April/May/June.

If the Penguins win another Cup in this three to four year window some feel this group has in them, It will likely be more in the sense of a 2009 type level in winning with offense (stars producing) than the type of style we saw last spring where the Penguins looked like one of the greatest coached teams in recent memory.

Therefore, the Penguins better go out and get another defenseman or top-flight winger.

That is said to be something the management group see’s as primary needs to put this team in the best position to repeat.

The Penguins on the backend are not good enough if the Penguins don’t have the type of defensive commitment (play away from the puck) they got from their forward group last spring.

It’s one of the reasons why the Penguins having been making feelers on a number of top-4 defensemen, along with the fact that Olli Maatta is just not a top-2 pairing d-man.

The Penguins had trade talks with the Calgary Flames last February regarding a multi-player deal that would have sent Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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