When is an 0-3 start worse than an 0-3 start
It’s not like Penguin winger Patrick Hornqvist was wrong as he spoke with reporters after his team’s third loss in as many games to start the 2015-’16 season.
“We’re going through a tough stretch right now. But good teams go through these stretches and we just have to battle.”
It’s a completely valid point. Yes, even the best teams are going to lose three in a row. But it’s one thing to say that in the middle of January after a block of games against Washington, Tampa and the Rangers.
It’s quite another when these were the first three games of the season. And two of them were against non playoff teams from the West. Others in the locker room seemed to place a higher premium on the bad start.
“It brings more light to the situation,” said fellow winger Beau Bennett. “Because we’re starting out 0-3. Teams may go through a three game losing streak throughout the year but starting that way is never a good thing.”
It particularly isn’t for Mike Johnston. After all, he’s still trying to figure out line combinations and defensive pairings. He’s hoping to determine if Daniel Sprong is worth keeping in the NHL. It’s utterly unclear what the best power play and penalty kill groupings should be. And it’d be nice to get Jeff Zatkoff a start before he gets too far removed from the pre-season.
That’s not possible though because, well, nothing is working. The offense is horrible (three goals in three games). The team is 0-9 on the PP. The defense could be worse, but hasn’t been great. Marc Andre-Fleury has been ok, but has yet to out-perform the guy in the other net.
So in the hope of figuring things out by trial and error, the Penguin trials have yielded nothing but errors. Johnston is going to need a few positive results to form of a baseline of what to build upon.
“I think any time you are starting the season you want to get out of the gates fast,” stated Johnston after Pittsburgh’s 3-2 home loss vs Montreal Tuesday. “It allows you to maneuver your lineup and get some young guys comfortable. But in these kinds of situations you are clawing and scraping to get some points here.”
Johnston doesn’t just need the Penguins to improve for the sake of performance evaluation. He also needs a quick turnaround in terms of job security. Let’s remember he’s running a club that didn’t make him their first choice when he was hired. Some wondered if would be fired after just one lackluster season. And this is a franchise that canned Ivan Hlinka after an 0-4 start in ‘01-’02.
And while Hornqvist is keeping the panic button under lock and key, others are emoting a sense of urgency.
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