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Insider Only Off-Day Buzz: It’s early but Penguins still showing signs of lacking a playoff mentality

photo (13)OFF-DAY BUZZ
While it was just one game and the Penguins will probably still win this series (I’d still bet on their skill winning out), what transpired Saturday night is why so many in the industry don’t feel this is a Stanley Cup team and I certainly still don’t.
The way the Penguins pretty much shutdown after Matt Calvert’s shorthanded goal in the second period was very concerning for a team that those in the organization feel is a Stanley Cup team.
The Penguins led 3-2 at the end of the second period but the feeling in the building was that the Penguins were losing 6-3. That feeling never went away in the third period or overtime.
If Columbus wins this series, seven to ten days from now we will all be looking at the Calvert shorthanded goal as the key turning point in the series. The Blue Jackets go into Game 3 strongly believing they can win this series and after a rough first four periods of the series, Sergei Bobrovsky found his game from the second period on in Game 2. If he plays .930 save percentage hockey the rest of the way like he did in Game 2, this is going to be a long series.
There is an arrogance throughout the Penguins organization from management, coaches to the players that the Penguin way will always win out. Well it hasn’t. The Penguins are 20-21 in their last 41 playoff games.
Despite the top tier talent, something just continues to seem to be missing when it comes to having that playoff mentality of playing the right way and doing whatever it takes to win.
“I think we need to have more emotion, feel for the game,” winger Chris Kunitz said today.
“At times I think we lacked some desperation,” Paul Martin said today.
Those aren’t quotes you want to hear.
For a team that is so reliant on their superstars, the Penguins live and die with their special teams. That was my feeling going into the playoffs and we’ve seen that through the first two playoffs games with the Penguins star players not producing and the penalty kill suffering over the last 20 regular season games and now into the playoffs.
Careless puck management on the power play was a huge issue again in Game 2 with Sidney Crosby being one of the primary culprit’s and the Penguins struggles to win faceoffs when on the power play to gain possession was a problem. The Penguins won just 3 of 14 (21%) faceoffs when on the power play.
What evolved in Game 2 after the Calvert shorthanded goal was the Penguins playing and coaching scared on the power play.
Because this team doesn’t have it in them to be responsible with the puck, the coaches were forced to take James Neal, one of the NHL’s best power play goal scorers over the last couple years off the top power play unit.

The Penguins had just 3 shots on goal in two power play opportunities in overtime. They played and coached scared.
The Blue Jackets feel they are on their way to wearing the Penguins down. They threw 51 hits in Game 2, after throwing 48 hits in Game 1. R.J. Umberger was among the players last night in discussing how tired the Penguins D looked.
“We were starting to wear them down,” Umberger said.
An interesting dynamic is whether this starts to become the case if it becomes a long series or has an effect on the Penguins in the next round vs the Rangers or Flyers were they to advance.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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