What an 0-2 Start Means for the Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins off to an 0-2 start, were outscored 11-5 in the two game series vs the Flyers.

It’s not panic time just yet, but in a 56 game season, a big two game series with the Washington Capitals (2-0-0, 4 pts) awaits.

If Pittsburgh starts the season 0-4, you could really see the wheels start to the fall off. The good thing is maybe this could be the perfect year to get a lottery pick.

Oh wait………..

Improvements in key areas in Friday’s Loss But are we seeing the same story?

Some players like Brandon Tanev for instance said the team played a great game in the season opener, I surely wasn’t see the same game, but the Penguins were indeed much improved in some key areas in Friday’s 5-2 loss. They can pat themselves on the back after that one.

I thought we were the better team tonight,” said Mike Sullivan. “We couldn’t convert on ours [chances].”

The eye test matched the analytics. Even prior to falling down 3-0, Pittsburgh possessed the puck well for much of the game, controlled the play for long stretches, and a key area they were much improved was in the neutral zone. They were more effective in bottling the Flyers up and turning defense into offense.

Minus the Brandon Tanev turnover on the rush in the third period, the third line was really good again.

But, are we seeing the same story with this group as a whole already?

5 vs 5 #'s

PIT 61 CF% | PHI 39 CF%
PIT 61 SCF% | PHI 39 SCF%
5 vs 5 GOALS FOR
PHI 3 – PIT 1

This is a perimeter team that isn’t blessed with a lot of great finishers. Key number from Friday’s loss is Pittsburgh being outscored 3-1 during 5-on-5 play.

“We just couldn’t find that tying goal,” said Sullivan.

There has to be a worry that there’s going to be more nights than not where the Penguins play fast, control the puck well and you come out of it saying the team didn’t make it hard on the opposing goaltender. It was the story in the second half of last season/bubble. I think we’re going to see it again this season. Look at their roster, they look like a bunch of string beans skating around that are not effective in the tough areas.

Pre-Game Adjustments/Lack of in-game adjustments

Why did the Penguins start the season with Mike Matheson in a Number 2 pairing role? As one Penguins source said ‘That’s what the GM wanted’. Why did the Penguins sign Cody Ceci? As the same Penguins source said ‘That’s what the GM wanted’.

We saw two changes on the blueline Friday night with Chad Ruhwedel replacing Cody Ceci in the lineup and Mike Matheson moving back to the third pair.

Matheson wasn’t the train-wreck he was in Game 1, so that was a positive I guess.

Ruhwedel played well, recording 3 shots, 2 blocked shots in 15:23 of ice time. He’ll probably get scapegoated for the tripping penalty in period one that saw the Flyers strike on the power play, but his presence in the lineup was a positive.

Ruhwedel led all defenseman with 3 shots, was smart with his pinches in the neutral zone, and was on the ice for zero power play goals against in 3:05 of shorthanded time.

Those lineup decisions from Sullivan had an impact.

What had an impact in a negative way was the lack of in-game adjustments.

With Kasperi Kapanen out, the Penguins decided they wanted to spread their lines out and put Evan Rodriques in the top right wing spot by default till Kapanen is back. I get that, but in a game your trailing, playing Rodrigues with Crosby for the entire night just doesn’t cut it. Evgeni Malkin was a dud again, Sullivan would not have been doing a disservice by taking one of Malkin’s wings away from him.

Crosby played just 13 seconds with Rust and 7 seconds with Zucker. Heck, even give Malkin a shift with Crosby.


— Tristan Jarry has a .709 save percentage through two games. He better find his game quickly. The Penguins can’t be waiting until Game 8 or 10 for him to show up. The positioning is the issue right now. He’s not sound with his side to side movement and he looks small in goal right now as shooters see openings upstairs.

— One former NHL player on Evgeni Malkin — “He doesn’t want to get hit”

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