The Calgary Flames came into Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon on a seven game losing streak, 1-9-1 in their last 11 games and were starting a goaltender in Joni Ortio who is more of an ECHL caliber goaltender than an NHL level netminder.
As Ortio looked lost in giving up a fluke goal 30 seconds into the game, this one looked like it would play out as a blowout win by the Penguins.
Yet, things didn’t play out that way. The Penguins held leads of 1-0, 2-1 but could never carry the play. Sidney Crosby scored 30 seconds into the game, Calgary would tie the game at 1-1, a 1:28 later.
Sidney Crosby would put the Penguins up 2-1 in the second period with his second goal of the game and 28th of the season, Calgary would tie the game again, a 1:29 later.
When Mark Giordano netted his 16th of the season at 6:53 of the second period in making it a 2-2 game, Pittsburgh could never get control of the game.
The Penguins mustered just 14 shots through two periods and there was just no urgency from the club all game.
“For whatever reason, we didn’t have the desperation and the urgency that you need,” Sidney Crosby said. “Sometimes that happens, but there’s no excuse for that because we need points. We’re in a huge playoff race right now. We can’t accept that. We’ve got to be better.”
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan called it a missed opportunity in failing to gets two points against a bad hockey club.
“We missed an opportunity today. I think if we’re going to climb in the standings like we want to, we have to string some in a row. Today was disappointing because I think our team is better than that,” said Sullivan.
What played out in this one was the Flames playing the type of game that gives the Penguins trouble. They were very physical with Pittsburgh below the dots and along the wall and forced the Penguins to take a lot of outside shots.
Calgary had 24 blocked shots.
Management sure feels the Penguins were being pushed around or have been pushed around at times with the call up of Tom Sestito this morning who is with the team in New Jersey.
The Penguins now enter a nine game stretch against Metropolitan Division opponents. Despite the Flyers pulling within three points of Pittsburgh for the final wildcard spot, the competition is so average below the Penguins, the Penguins are really going to have to implode down the stretch to miss the post-season. It’s difficult to imagine that happening.
But, what continues to stand out with this hockey club is the same trajectory they’ve been on all season when it comes to their winning percentage. It’s very rare that a team hovers all season around the seventh or eighth seed in the conference( which is where the Penguins have been), finishes there, and somehow starts knocking out many of the top teams in the post-season.
The Penguins in the 2008-2009 season went from 11th in the East to finishing fourth in the conference in a matter of seven weeks by going 18-3-3 in their final 24 games. You have to peak at some point.
Yes, the advance analytics crowd that seems to pumping the Penguins up as a serious threat in the East might be on to something, but I’d leave it as the Penguins being a potential dangerous team that can cause a scare if the stars shine than a legitimate threat to win multiple rounds that some are making them out to be.
There’s no proof with this hockey club that they have the consistency in them to go out and win four out of seven games against the top teams in the Metropolitan or even in the Atlantic Division where going in as the top wildcard would likely have the Penguins having to go through the surging Lightning in round 1.
Not all but a few select players in that room seem to be seeing it, notably Patric Hornqvist who was again very critical of the Penguins performance on Saturday.
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