PENGUINS SQUANDER OPPORTUNITY TO CLINCH
The Penguins season will come down to the final day of the regular season tomorrow night in Buffalo following a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders tonight.
The Sabres tonight clinched the worst record in the NHL, meaning they will finish first (20% chance) or second in the lottery and land Connor McDavid with the first pick or Jack Eichel with the second overall pick. Mission Accomplished by GM Tim Murray.
“Hell of a game tomorrow,” Penguins winger Patric Hornqvist said after tonight’s loss to the Islanders.
For the Penguins tonight it was an awkward night from start to finish to the non-call on Patric Hornqvist’s no goal, to the Islanders scoring shorthanded eight seconds later, to Rob Scuderi scoring the Penguins only goal, to an absolute depressed and embarrassing feeling among the fan base at games end on fan appreciation night, to Mike Johnston not committing to starting Marc Andre Fleury vs Buffalo with the Penguins season on the line.
Not to mention Johnston says yesterday that Kris Letang may be back for the playoffs and Letang was privately telling players yesterday he was optimistic about returning in the next couple weeks, only to have Jim Rutherford tell reporters tonight on their way to the locker room that Letang is likely done for the season.
“Based on his present condition, it’s not likely he’d return this year,” Rutherford said via the Tribune-Review.
It was just an awkward night all around and that’s the Penguins right now. There is an empty feeling surrounding this team and even inside the room. This is the first season in the Sidney Crosby era where there appears to be a feeling among some of the fan base where there is no hope for the short-term or immediate future when it comes to the Penguins re-emerging as a Stanley Cup team. Worst part, even the players deep down seem to realize this team just isn’t good enough to do much of anything in the playoffs.
As stated before, things are going to get worse before they get better. Maybe some are starting to see the light.
The Penguins have no identity as a franchise right now.
PENGUINS LACKING TIMELY GOALS HAS BEEN A SEASON LONG PROBLEM
The Penguins battled hard tonight and had a strong compete level and got off to a solid start minus the hideous shorthanded goal against.
The Islanders strategically game planned to play a dump and chase game from the start with the Penguins dressing Five ‘D’ and Pittsburgh countered it well for the first 30 minutes or so of the game, owning the territorial edge.
Trailing 1-0 late in the second period, the Penguins only goal of the game came from Rob Scuderi with five seconds left in the second period.
Momentum changer that would lead to the Penguins clinching a playoff spot tonight?
That ending didn’t play out by any means as the Islanders took control of the game from the start of the third and John Tavares scored 2:46 into the third, burying a shot past Marc Andre Fleury while uncovered in front as Ben Lovejoy was puck watching.
Michael Grabner would close out the game for the Islanders with a breakaway goal at 16:20 of the third to put the Islanders up 3-1, Grabner made a great individual play of blowing by Ian Cole in the neutral zone and beating Marc Andre Fleury glove side.
The Islanders are a flawed team in some critical areas and likely one and done in a first round matchup with the Capitals, but what they do have is the ability to score timely goals in games when getting outplayed. That use to be a staple of the Penguins in the past. Those days are long gone now.
Bad luck, fancy stats, this is a results business. Pittsburgh is now averaging 2.34 goals per game over their last 58 games. They also only have 26 wins during that span, including just 19 regulation wins.This team just doesn’t have finishers to go with a flawed system. It isn’t bad luck.
“You have to get results,” Mike Johnston said. “Again tonight, early in the game we were just textbook in our game.
“We just didn’t score tonight on our opportunities. We should be scoring more than we are.”
While it wasn’t a momentum changer at the time, the Penguins gave up their 11th shorthanded goal of the season, on a set play the coaching staff claims the team was prepared for.
“Anytime you use four forwards on the power play, there is a potential for that to happen,” Johnston said on the Penguins allowing the second most shorthanded goals in the NHL. “If you look at the play, it’s a set play that we known they’d use.”
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