Are the Penguins fatigued? That’s the latest dumb narrative being brought up by the media. Maybe the Penguins are just losing to good teams.
Boasting the NHL’s 4th hardest schedule since the Olympic break, Pittsburgh has lost nine of their last 15 games.
The Penguins have some critical issues that need fixed before the post-season as the Penguins look like a team that will be vulnerable even against inferior teams like the Flyers and Rangers in a potential second round matchup.
Some of the Penguins most pressing issues are fixable and some of them are not. There’s nothing the Penguins can do now on being too small in the bottom-6 and not built to play a heavy game which is how the NHL has transformed the last couple years. Those issues are on management.
However, some of the Penguins most pressing issues that are losing them games right now are fixable. It’s just remains be seen if the players and coaching staff have it in them to change:
1. Breakout/Transition Game – The Penguins continue to struggle mightily on the breakout and in the transition game without Kris Letang and Paul Martin. Lucky for them help is on the way. Momentum is moving into the direction of Letang returning multiple sources say. Martin is due back just around the playoffs. Those returns will improve the Penguins tremendously on the breakout and one key element is that if Letang and Martin get back by the playoffs, the Penguins can then put Matt Niskanen back into a third pairing role. One scout on Niskanen’s play of late: “He’s getting taxed,” the scout said.
2. Matchups: What a surprise. Tuesday night Dan Bylsma didn’t make one attempt to get Sidney Crosby away from Coyotes star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Zbynek Michalek. There’s a reason the home team gets the last change. Bylsma’s arrogance to not get Crosby away from the oppositions top defenders killed the Penguins in the playoffs last spring vs Boston and will likely do the same again if he doesn’t change. It’s the easiest fix of them all but if you’ve coached one way for so long, it’s hard to see things suddenly changing in April.
3. Undisciplined Penalties: This has been a problem for years and was finally exposed in the Philadelphia series in the 2012 playoffs. What is it going to take for the Penguins top players to play disciplined. Again it’s another easy fix but not so much when they have played this way for so long. No one with any weight in the organization will stand up to a James Neal or other prominent players to stop playing careless.
We’re going to learn a lot about this group in the next four to six weeks.