Finding Ways to Lose
Pittsburgh’s 4-3 loss to the New York Islanders Saturday night chalks up as their most disappointing loss of the season through 11 games.
Falling down 2-1 it looked like it was going to be another night where Tristan Jarry wasn’t going to do enough to put the Penguins in position to win. Then in the second period the tide turned.
Jarry had a spectacular second period two that was capped off with Evgeni Malkin tying the game at 2-2 with 15 seconds left in the second period that saw the Malkin line turn defense into offense just inside the Isles blueline. Momentum continued to carry the Penguins way in the early moments of the final frame as Jake Guentzel put the Penguins up 3-2, just 3:19 in the third.
The way the Penguins started to take the game over in stretches, especially the top line that dominated in every facet, it was a game you have to find a way to finish.
But, a abysmal defensive breakdown by Kris Letang opened the door for the Islanders comeback.
The Cal Clutterbuck game tying goal at the 8:23 mark of the third period was an inexcusable breakdown from Letang. It just can’t happen in that situation.
For Pittsburgh you had the matchup you wanted. Your 4th line up against their 4th line favors New York but the Penguins had their No. 1 pair on defense out there.
It was textbook 101 on what not to do as a defenseman. On the Clutterbuck goal, here comes Kris Letang doing Kris Letang things as Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Letang both get caught behind the net and it’s suddenly a 3-3 game.
Pierre-Olivier Joseph is the left D on the pair and has clear 1-on-1 coverage against Casey Cizikas. For starters this is Joseph’s side of the ice to defend and Letang’s job is to defend the front of the net and protect the weak side post (Jarry’s blocker side) if Cizikas were to carry the puck around the net.
What is so maddening with Letang’s defensive game is that the light rarely turns on in his head when it comes to his defensive awareness. There was no read and react from him. He was chasing the puck carrier no matter what even though he’s the right D and it was going to take him completely out of his proper lane.
If the roles were reversed and Pierre-Olivier Joseph makes that mistake, you can live with it. That’s a rookie defense just getting his feet wet. Letang is just a different story. It is still something on how he’s never been able to eliminate mental mistakes like this that have haunted this team season after season.
The loss also comes back on the shoulders of Tristan Jarry as the game winner leaked through Jarry. Almost every game Jarry has played in this season, the Penguins have had the inferior goaltender. The team could be looking at a major problem in the present and future. Let’s not forget, scouts for the longest time had viewed Jarry’s ceiling being a high-end No. 2 goaltender. Lot of time to go but it’s not wrong to start wondering if that is who he really is, while Rutherford & Co got duped on last year’s hot run Jarry had in the first half of the season.
GM Search Chatter
At the end of the day Pittsburgh’s General Manager search will be about who didn’t want the job and who the Penguins couldn’t pursue for various reasons. No matter how they spin it, they are not getting the person they really wanted.
One NHL source said over weekend Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" that whoever lays out the best vision to Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access" on how to reacquire Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
The search now heads to an interesting stage.
Monday will start the next wave of second interviews for around five select candidates, while the Penguins could also bring in as many as 2-3 new candidates to the table for their first interviews, multiple sources tell TIOPS. Might sound confusing but that’s what is at play here.
The Eight GM Interviews
John Ferguson Jr
Source: Elliotte Friedman Sportsnet
High ranking sources confirm the Penguins have conducted eight official interviews for the GM position, while there’s been mid-level talks with a few other individuals about prominent roles to run the hockey operations. For whatever reason, these discussions are not being labeled as official interviews.
The belief around the league is the Penguins plan to get a GM in place first, some talk the team hopes to move fast enough this week where an offer to a candidate could happen as early as this Friday, then make a decision whether to hire a President of Hockey Operations or not by the spring or summer where if the Penguins went this route, the President of Hockey Operations would inherit the new General Manager Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"
Who is or will be considered for the President of Hockey Operations role that isn’t being considered for the GM opening?