The Pittsburgh Penguins in the midst of a three game losing streak, have reverted back to their ways from December where defensively the play away from the puck has been as bad as it gets.
The 8-4 loss to the Boston Bruins Thursday night highlighted all of it where Pittsburgh constantly had 3-4 players caught on one side, a ton of puck watching that was followed by terrible goaltending.
Quite a few of the Penguins lower tier players were victimized in the loss.
Carter Rowney who is playing nowhere near an NHL level player, was on the ice for 5 goals against in 5:45 of ice time through two periods. On the ice for 5 goals against in under six minutes of ice is about as impossible as it gets but it happened against the Bruins for Rowney.
Jamie Oleksiak was also on the ice for 5 goals against in just 6:35 of ice time after two periods.
Oleksiak has hit a bit of wall the last couple games, on the ice for 10 goals against during the Penguins 3 game losing the streak, the same number (10 goals against) for partner Matt Hunwick.
The Penguins third pairing and 4th line wingers are a problem for Pittsburgh again, but at the end of the day the Penguins are not going to win or lose the Stanley Cup because Matt Hunwick is the Penguins No. 6 defenseman and Ian Cole is now in Columbus.
These last three games have also shown the Penguins look like the Penguins from November/December a bit where the opposition is coming off as the quicker team in winning puck races and excelling through the neutral zone with ease on zone entries.
It was key area in losses to the Devils, Bruins this week.
The Penguins through 65 games have 76 points, 16 points behind the conference leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
Are the Lightning really 16 points better than Pittsburgh?
Probably not, but 65 games in, a true barometer of the Penguins is that they’re somewhere in-between the inconsistent level of play from October – December and the great six week stretch they put on the ice prior to this three game losing streak.
Everything that comes back to the Penguins is that as vulnerable as they look at times, the Penguins are the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions and they’re so mentally strong that a Metropolitan Division team beating them four out of seven times is a believe it when I’ll see it situation.
Philadelphia would be an extremely dangerous series for the Penguins, an entertaining one for sure that needs to happen, but Brian Elliott beating a healthy Matt Murray four times isn’t likely happening.
Washington – Pittsburgh would be another pick’em series but we know how those have went recently and personnel wise, Pittsburgh is the quicker team and has some key favorable matchups.
Whether the Penguins finish first, second, third or the first wildcard spot, staying in the Metropolitan Division playoff bracket is all that matters for the Penguins.
A 5:00 p.m. puck drop today between the Penguins and Islanders, will the Derick Brassard/Phil Kessel line finally break out?
Give it time but issue for the Penguins might be finding the proper left winger with those two.
Penguin coaches always preach to play with pace but as one team source says, Conor Sheary is fighting the puck so bad it’s leading him to playing too fast and he’s constantly rushing passes, ect.
Brassard excels at letting plays develop and another thing the line doesn’t have is someone to hunt the puck in the tough areas.
Zach Aston-Reese would have been intriguing there but he’s dealing with a nagging injury that has him week to week.
Dominik Simon got the recall Friday and gives Pittsburgh a needed skill option with the bottom-level lines, though, that’s if he gets to dress over Carter Rowney.
However, a Daniel Sprong recall could have helped facilitate a trick-down effect with the lines that could put a better forechecking presence with Brassard/Kessel.
Sprong has at least shown some small glimpses of success with Sidney Crosby and the ideal move would have been playing Guentzel – Crosby – Sprong together and putting Bryan Rust on Brassard’s left wing To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!