MORNING PENS BUZZ
Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Columbus, which was an implosion on the Penguins end, proved again that the Pittsburgh Penguins are not a very good team and when Pittsburgh is missing Evgeni Malkin on any given night, it highlights how bad this roster is constructed after the top couple forwards and riding along with a bunch of No. 6 defensemen after Kris Letang, Paul Martin, was going to catch up with them, including a 21 year old defenseman who was eventually going to get exposed defensively on a consistent basis.
The Penguins are a mentally weak group and once Columbus tied the score at 2-2, you could sense going into the third that they weren’t coming out of Nationwide Arena with a “W”.
“It’s embarrassing,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said via the Tribune-Review. “We aren’t playing like a team that deserves to be in the playoffs.”
Despite his goal today, Lovejoy has not been much of an upgrade over Simon Despres, if at all, and is still the same Ben Lovejoy, who retrieves pucks very well due to his speed, but his first instinct is to always throw the puck around the boards whether there’s an outlet pass available or not. Something the previous coaching staff couldn’t stand about his game.
The guy, though, actually cares, unlike a lot of the ‘new’ Penguins that Jim Rutherford has brought in.
“We really didn’t get desperate until we were down a couple of goals,” Sidney Crosby said. “We have to understand that’s how you play the entire game. Regardless of the score, our desperation has to be there.”
The Penguins still needing to understand the right way to play a sixty minute game is why this team is going nowhere, even if it gets fully healthy.
While it didn’t come back to haunt them at the time, Sidney Crosby gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead at 8:21 of the first period. The very next shift, Steve Downie takes an interference penalty in the offensive zone (20 seconds later). 4:11 later, the Penguins take a too-many-men penalty while attacking on the rush. Carelessness is everywhere in the Penguins game.
The Penguins are just a bad combination with a flawed roster, — a large chunk of players who just don’t have the proper drive, and having an inexperienced coach doesn’t help matters when the head coach has become over-matched for months now once veteran coaches were able to breakdown film on Johnston’s system and tendencies. Not to mention the coaching staff as a whole can’t get an uninspired group having a consistent compete level.
Effort level wasn’t the root of the Penguins problems vs Columbus, like Wednesday night against Philadelphia. Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist, Ian Cole were among those bringing it. Carelessness with the puck, though, haunted the Penguins in the loss, with the likes of David Perron, Derrick Pouliot having brutal games.
That again goes back to not playing the right way and making a point to do the little things to preserve the lead. This isn’t regular season game #15, this was game #78.
The Blue Jackets are a team that comes at you and confronts you. It wasn’t surprising to see the Penguins play fundamental hockey for short but not long stretches against Columbus.
“They weren’t defensive lapses,” Mike Johnston said of the Penguins defensive woes. “They were turnovers. When you’re confronted, you’ve got to manage the puck and get it by the pressure.”
It’s all crashing down for the Penguins who are a loss tomorrow at Philadelphia and Tuesday night against Ottawa from being in a world of trouble.
If Ottawa beats Toronto on Sunday, Tuesday’s matchup looms very large whether the Penguins win or not vs Flyers.
The Penguins are now 26-29 in their last 55 games, averaging 2.38 goals per game during that span. Pittsburgh has just 15 regulation wins in their last 45 games. They haven’t just hit a rough patch all of a sudden. This team has been trending down for months.
If there’s any positive going into Sunday, they get Evgeni Malkin back, who for some reason couldn’t play Saturday but will be healthy enough to play Sunday.