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Insider Only On the Penguins: Lack of young legs for in bottom-6 continues to be a problem against elite level teams


Mike Sullivan’s decision to start Marc Andre Fleury Wednesday night kept the Penguins from having the type of disturbing loss the team had against the New Jersey Devils in November.

As Sullivan stated after the game, the Penguins play in the first period was the worst he’s seen since becoming Penguin head coach and you can argue it was the Penguins worst period of the season.

It was a Chicago onslaught, outshooting the Penguins 15-3 in the first period. Chicago would go on to outshoot the Penguins 37-18, including 33-14 in 5 v 5 situations. Facing backup Scott Darling, Pittsburgh had just five high danger scoring chances in the game.

The Blackhawks played a flat game in Pittsburgh Tuesday night and they knew it. They took their game to another level Wednesday night and the Penguins didn’t have a prayer of being able to match them.

The Hawks came at the Penguins with a much more aggressive forecheck than Tuesday night and through the neutral zone the Blackhawks were also more aggressive in their defensemen stepping up. The Penguins struggled mightily getting out of their zone, especially handling pucks along the wall, and gaining the offensive zone was a nightmare for the Penguins. The blame can’t all go on the Pens D for their struggles to exit the d-zone. The forwards were also not doing a good job in finding open lanes on the breakout, a credit to the Blackhawks.

Chicago was a step ahead of the Penguins in almost every area and the Blackhawks overall talent trumped Pittsburgh’s on this night.

Stunningly, though, because of Marc Andre Fleury who was magnificent, on the scoreboard at least the Penguins were in the game until the final minute of the game when Ben Lovejoy, who for some reason was on the ice with the Penguins trailing, tripped over himself at the blueline leading to an empty net goal.

Close score aside this was a beating the Penguins took.

The Penguins are a middle of the pack team that can only be competitive with the few truly elite teams like the Blackhawks, Kings when the stars are having dominant nights and they didn’t Wednesday night.

Malkin, Crosby and Kessel combined for three 5 v 5 shots.

In a game against a very good team where the stars are being neutralized, I still look at this as a situation where the Penguins not having those young legs in the bottom-6 is a big problem. That was a type of game where you need an energy line to go out and have the ability to change momentum for a few shifts.

Mike Sullivan calls it a mindset problem on the Penguins looking tired last night, I see it as a personnel problem.

“For me back-to-backs is a mindset and finding ways to win,” Sullivan said. “Chicago was in same situation tonight.”


When Jim Rutherford was General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2013, the Hurricanes had the No. 5 overall pick and Jonathan Drouin was a player Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"

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William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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