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Frustrated Pens looking for answers

The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped their third game in a row Friday night, a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at the Consol Energy Center.
Friday night’s loss was the same story, squandered opportunities and the inability to play a sixty minute game.
The game opened up with some nastiness, as Matt Cooke and Mike Richards squared off just 6 seconds into the game and 17 seconds later, Deryk Engelland gave the national hockey league another glimpse of why he’s establishing himself as one of the best fighters in the game, winning a decisive bout against Flyers heavyweight enforcer Jody Shelly, bloodying Shelly’s left eye and taking down yet another top enforcer in the league.
According to Rob Rossi of the Tribune-Review, the Cooke fight stemmed from comments Mike Richards made after the Penguins 5-1 against the Flyers on October 15, 2010. “I chased him {Matt Cooke} around last year, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with it,” Richards said at the time.
This was an opportunity Cooke was eyeing and when the Flyers inserted their starting lineup that included Richards, head coach Dan Bylsma started Cooke – Sidney Crosby and Arron Asham.
The start of the game felt like a scene from the movie Slap Shot as the crowd was immediately into the game and Pittsburgh built off of that momentum and Kris Letang scored on a tic-tac-toe goal at the 8:12 mark of the first period and Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead.
The Penguins had control of the game in the first period but the final forty minutes belonged to Philadelphia.
The quick strike Flyers turned the game around in the second period against the Penguins powerless power play as Claude Giroux scored a short-handed goal at the 5:12 mark to tie the game up at 1-1 and the Flyers went up 2-1 on a goal by Daniel Carcillo who redirected Matt Carle’s soft wrist shot from the point that slowly slide under Marc Andre Fleury’s pads, 13:34 into the second period.
The Flyers never trailed again in the game and Giroux pushed the Flyers lead to 3-1, scoring a power play goal just past the mid-way mark of the third period.
Tyler Kennedy (2) added a goal for Pittsburgh with 45 seconds remaining to cut the Flyers lead to 3-2 but it was too late as the Flyers held on to secure the win behind a 26 save performance from goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Frustrations are building in the Penguins locker room as the players held a closed door meeting following the game and the frustrations are centering around the continued lapses that the team is having. They have lacked that type of killer instinct elite teams have.
“That’s kind of been our story for a little while and we’re not following it up,” Penguins winger Mike Rupp said. “We had a rough second period and didn’t seem to get it after that.”
Dan Bylsma said after Friday’s morning skate that the Penguins lack an identity. Bylsma was spot on with that statement.
Pressing issues for the Penguins through 11 games is a dismal power play, a lack of fire power up front and underachieving play from star players Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc Andre Fleury.
The Penguins are built to win through their superstars and neither player is producing at an elite level.
Fleury rebounded with a better performance Friday night, making 21 saves in the loss, but again he failed to come up with the big saves when needed and the soft goal he gave up to Daniel Carcillo was costly one in the loss.
Fleury is now 1-5 on the season and has given up 3 or more goals in all six starts this season.
Sidney Crosby is averaging more than a point per game, leading the Penguins with 13 points (6G-7A) in 11 games. Evgeni Malkin though has a disapointing 3 goals and 6 assists on the season through 11 games.
The Penguins go through these two players. In the Penguins five wins this season, Crosby (5G-4A) and Malkin (2G-4A) have combined for 15 points. By contrast, in the Penguins 6 losses this season, Malkin (1G-2A) and Crosby (1G-3A) have combined for only 7 points.
By standards of being two of the best players in the game, neither player is being the type of game breaker they are counted on to be.
There are only two games this season where you can say Crosby or Malkin took over a game. A 5-1 win against the Flyers on October 16 where Crosby put the game away in the third period and a 4-3 OT win against the Nashville Predators on October 21, where both Crosby and Malkin changed and dictated the game in the third.
Two out of eleven games is not good enough.
The power play is killing Pittsburgh in their recent losses and they are now suddenly being exposed by teams like Philadelphia and Tampa Bay who provide immense pressure and are a threat to score short-handed.
The Penguins were 0-for-6 against Philadelphia and are now 0-for-20 during their three game losing streak. The concern is that they just never look like a threat to score. Issues on the power play have now been going on for several years and it’s hard to envision them all of a sudden going away.
However, despite losing Sergei Gonchar and Bill Guerin who combined for 17 goals and 31 assists on the power play last season, there are no excuses for Pittsburgh’s early struggles.
The Penguins hit the road tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes as the Penguins look to end a three game skid.

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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