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Insider Only Hitting a Wall? Penguins bottom tier players exposed vs Flyers, others being over-extended

Penguins – Flyers Fallout

The Penguins finally looked like a team Sunday night vs the Flyers that has hit a wall due to the injuries. After jumping out to a 1-0 lead and +11 advantage in shot attempts in the first six minutes of the game, Pittsburgh was overwhelmed in all facets.

For one of the rare times this season, the Penguins appeared to be a slow, tired hockey club.

And the injuries for at least one night caught up to the Penguins.

With a tough stretch looming against Chicago, New York Rangers, Carolina, and Columbus over the next four games, things don’t get easier for the injury ravished Penguins.

The issue for the Penguins in Sunday night’s game was how they weren’t able to hide their bottom tier players and I thought the bottom-6 lacked an energy game that is often needed when the top-6 is not controlling play offensively.

At even strength, Oskar Sundqvist on the ice for three goals against, was also -11 in shot attempts differential (3/14). Tom Kuhnhackl (5/15, 21 CF%), Scott Wilson (4/15, 21 CF%), were also on the ice for two 5 v 5 goals against.

David Warsofsky was on the ice for a team-high 25 shot attempts against and that was major trouble for the Penguins defensively.

The injury situation has also started to show some cracks in Justin Schultz game defensively in how he’s now being over-extended into a top-pairing role. Schultz was on the ice for 3 even strength goals against and was hemmed in his own end for much of the night, on the ice for 11 shot attempts, 20 against.


Mike Sullivan like many NHL coaches is wired where every point matters. “We’ve solidified a playoff spot, but we’d like to be in the best possible position,” Sullivan said. “Given the players we have available to us, we’re trying to put the best lineup together that we think is going to win on a given night.”

For a team that looked slow last night, the Penguins also missed Josh Archibald’s speed and energy. He was a healthy scratch.

NHL coaches are showing no signs of adopting the NBA’s philosophy and resting players, notably star players, but even with the injury situation, the Penguins would be smart to give some players a game or two off over the final seven games and decide where they finish is where finish.

This team has played a ton of hockey over the last year.

Injuries now have 40 year old Matt Cullen playing over 18 minutes a night in three of the last four games, nearly five minutes more than he was playing prior to the Malkin injury. He’s a prime candidate who should get a couple games off spread over the final week to 10 days. Chris Kunitz at age 37 is another obvious candidate. That said, until the Penguins playoff spot is officially locked in, don’t count on anybody sitting for rest.


— Are Phil Kessel’s days as 30+ goal a year winger over? He’ll be 30 years old in October and projects to score under 30 goals for the third straight season.

Goal Production last 3 years

2014-2015: 25 Goals in 82 Games
2015-2016: 26 Goals in 82 Games
2016-2017: 22 Goals in 75 Games


— My thoughts on the Penguins goaltending situation following a poor outing from Matt Murray.

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Murray can go out and give up 5 goals a game in the remaining regular season starts he makes and he’ll still be the Penguins’ starting goaltender for Game 1 of the playoffs and have a very long leash.

Nothing Murray or Fleury does the rest of the way over these final seven games is going to change anything. No matter how hard the Fleury crowd among the fan base and local media try to drive up talk that a goaltending controversy is brewing, it’s just not. 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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