The storyline from some of the media about the Penguins being “rusty” because of playing just once in eight days is something that’s hard to buy into when you look at the big picture that the Penguins have not been playing very good hockey over the last four weeks or so.
“This has been going on for a little while now where we haven’t play our best,” defenseman Matt Niskanen said after the loss.
Sidney Crosby gave a similar tune.
“We didn’t give ourselves a chance at all,” Crosby¬†said. “Way we competed, way we executed was bad and we got what we deserved……Don’t think we’ve played a complete game at all for a while now and it caught up to us here tonight. We still have better. Have to find a way to put 60 minutes together and tonight not sure we put 10 together,” Crosby said.
Getting lucky and winning some of the games the Penguins have in recent weeks doesn’t break bad habits and can lead to the Penguins taking lesser opponents lightly.
I strongly believe that’s what we saw tonight from the Penguins in a 5-1 loss against the Florida Panthers on Monday night. The Penguins were sloppy in all facets, giving up a shorthanded goal for the second consecutive game and the Panthers were the hungrier team from a compete level and most notably being the faster team to pucks.
“They won more battles, they had more speed,” head coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Penguins play defensively continues to be trending down since about a few games before Christmas and remains an area to watch as there’s no denying that Penguins play more reckless defensively when they have a full lineup compared to when they’re plugging callups in who play more of a less risky game.
It also hasn’t helped that Marc Andre Fleury’s play has not been as good in the last four to five weeks, which isn’t surprising. Fleury was playing well above his career marks over the first two months of the season. It was only going to be a matter of time before he hit a little speed bump. Some feel the 2010 Olympics burned him being the No. 3 goaltender for Canada and seeing a ton of pucks in practice and he’s one player who could use the break this time around in a few weeks.
Fleury has a .888 save percentage in the month of January and his save percentage on the season is now down to .915, a very average mark for a starting goaltender.
The Penguins effort tonight was questioned from key players and It was good to see afterwards that a player not named Brooks Orpik or Rob Scuderi scold the team for their effort.
Matt Niskanen the Penguins lone goal scorer tonight is not only having a career season but he’s also emerging as a leader in the locker room.
“We were piss poor,” Niskanen said. “Not a lot of compete out there. They were willing to play a harder game than we were and it showed……Uncharacteristic for us to be that sloppy and not care about playing a hard game. That’s not like us but needs to stop at one {game}.”
My biggest takeaway from Niskanen was his comments moments later when he explained how it was clear that the Penguins didn’t have it, as early as the middle of the first period, but that the team never adapted.
“Sometime in the first you just got sense it wasn’t going to be one of those games where we were flying on all cylinders,” Niskanen said. “But, I think when you recognize that as a group, you just need to play really simple and really hard. Even if you oversimplify it, at least you’re making hard plays. You gotta ‘check’ to work your away out it….. We didn’t do it, we didn’t have much of a push at all.”
Niskanen rejected the notion that adding Paul Martin, James Neal, Chuck Kobasew and Jason Megna to the lineup, led to the Penguins being out of sync. Niskanen kept coming back to the Penguins lack of work ethic
“Tonight throughout ‘our group’, we were just awful,” Niskanen said. “Bad execution, bad work ethic, we just weren’t hungry enough to win a loose puck, win a battle. They came in here tonight and beat the crap out of us.”

Niskanen was realistic that you have bad nights in an 82 game season but he said he’s never seen such a poor work ethic like tonight.
“Uncharacteristic for our team to lay an egg tonight,” Niskanen said. “Since I’ve been here, the compete and work ethic has always been at a premium. It’s just there, you never have to talk about it. So I think we got to recognize it was awful and get ready for a real hard nose game on Wednesday.”