The Penguins losing streak extended to five games Wednesday night with a 2-1 loss against the Capitals.
A T.J. Oshie goal with a 1:14 left in regulation sunk the Penguins as Riley Sheahan lost Oshie in space for a tap-in goal.
The positive for the Penguins on a day their General Manager called out his club is that this group responded very well with what should have been a ‘W’ in their column.
Pittsburgh out-shot Washington 42-22, out-attempted the Capitals 70-29 at 5 vs 5 with a +24 edge in scoring chances.
Aside from Evgeni Malkin deciding to take T.J. Oshie with a head shot, Pittsburgh’s big guns were setting the tone.
You could see it from Sidney Crosby who had the lone Penguins goal, a power play marker in the first period, that it was a must for him to go out and lead by example.
Crosby’s 200 ft game was something else, he was all over the ice, blocking shots, getting in shooting lanes. Crosby set the tone for the Penguins to have a very nice bounce back performance despite the loss.
This was a performance for the Penguins, though, where Saturday night against Arizona will tell the story on whether the message has been truly received.
The concern in the organization is that this group has become too content and just feel like when January comes around they’ll start to turn the switch and begin to be motivated to play inspiring hockey on a nightly basis.
This is what they did last year and despite a second place finish, Pittsburgh would have missed the playoffs with five fewer points, that’s how much parity there is, especially in the Metropolitan Division.
Jim Rutherford going off on his team Wednesday on his weekly radio show (105.9 The X) is totally understandable. While Rutherford has played a big part in the glaring warts on this roster, he clearly see’s there’s just not something right with this group.
The most newsworthy quote:
“Has this team been together too long?,” said Rutherford. “It’s something I always have to watch for.” When do you have to make those changes? The players are doing everything they can to tell me now’s the time.”
This is something that’s been building since last spring’s second round ouster, however, actions mean more than words.
In the immediate aftermath of the Capitals loss, Pittsburgh put Phil Kessel and Kris Letang out there in trade talks for about a month to mull options of shaking up the core.
However, Rutherford’s stance of potentially breaking up this group isn’t about Kessel or Letang by any means.
There’s no Phil Kessel trade to be made in season, little to no chance of that, and Letang’s turnaround so far has changed where he was viewed internally since May. He’s going nowhere.
This is more about the 2nd, 3rd tier level players, though, at this time of the year you’re mostly looking at trading a struggling player for another struggling player type trade or finding a Jamie Oleksiak project type deal.
“At a young age, guys win Stanley Cups and lot of guys go their whole career and they don’t even get close to it. We’ve got some young guys that won a couple, then they get bigger contract and then they kind of settle in. They forget what got them to where they are today,” said Rutherford.
Who are these comments about?
It’s surely not Brian Dumoulin who the Penguins decision makers regard as their best defenseman and he is.
Based on who’s been made available in trade talks and who hasn’t been, It’s definitely about Olli Maatta who is actively being shopped in hockey trades (player-for-player type deals) and possibly Bryan Rust, though, you can’t be certain.
Whispers in the last 48 hours is that Pittsburgh is getting some Western Conference interest in Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
Rust is a name executives Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
That’s the type of player the Rangers are seeking Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
— One quote from Rutherford that is more him just rambling is this:
“Maybe they change their game,” said Rutherford about players in contract years. “Maybe they think scoring more goals or getting more points is what’s going to get them more money. So they can get away from their game, what their role is.”
Maybe Jake Guentzel who’s been a bit inconsistent?
However, this was an odd-one.
Carl Hagelin in a contract year is playing the way he always does, he just isn’t scoring. The other player in a contract year that isn’t over 40 years old is Riley Sheahan.
He’s just not a good hockey offensive player and isn’t as good defensively as this coaching staff keeps thinking he is. What you get from him is what you get.
— The good thing emerging for the Penguins is that the GM is very unlikely to sit around and be patient. He’ll look to be active as he always.
The bad thing is another bad off-season from the GM has to be fixed.
Rutherford talks about you have to be a step ahead in knowing when to change a group, yet, he brought back a soon to be 42 year old Matt Cullen because he thought the group lacked leadership.
When Pittsburgh traded Conor Sheary, it was mostly embraced because it cleared $5.25 million in cap space.
What did it lead to?
Every dime of that cap space created went to Jack Johnson and Riley Sheahan.
Sheary was a frustrating player at times with the inconsistency, but you still took 20 goals out of your lineup (Sheary averaged 20 goals a season the last two seasons) from a player in his mid-20’s to add a No. 6 level defenseman on a 5 year contract and keep a 4th line caliber center with a $2.1 million cap hit. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"