The Pittsburgh Penguins played the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday and lost 5-2. Vancouver was playing the second game of a back-to-back series so the Penguins should’ve had an easy time against a tired opponent. But it wasn’t even close. The Penguins are 11-9-3 so far on the season. Not a bad record but not great either for a team that’s used to winning a lot more often. So is it time to panic? I debate this with the only person as smart as me – me!
Me: The Pens are a mess this season! They can’t score 5 on 5, the penalty killing sucks, Sid and Geno aren’t scoring, they miss Bonino, Cullen and Kunitz. They’re getting no scoring from the bottom 2 lines, Letang is a bum, there’s no hope! We’re all going to die!!
Other Me: Whoa calm down buddy! Let’s start with scoring. Sid has 6 goals and 11 assists so far and Malkin has 7 goals and 14 assists. Assuming they’re not hurt (well Geno currently is), you have to believe they’ll get back to their normal levels of scoring. They’re not going to be in a slump forever.
Me: What about the penalty kill? They’re currently 26th in the league and have given up the 2nd most power play goals in the league.
Other Me: Well that’s a problem Maybe this is where they miss Matt Cullen, Nick Bonino, Trevor Dailey and Ron Hainsey the most. Bonino was a shot blocking machine. Maybe the answer is don’t get penalized so much. They’re 2nd in the league with 88 power play opportunities.
Me: What about the complete lack of scoring in the bottom 2 lines? The team’s strength is supposed to be the centers and they’ve been awful.
Other me: Another good point! Good job, me! Replacing Nick Bonino and Matt Cullen with Riley Sheahan and Greg McKegg is a huge downgrade. Sheahan just isn’t going to provide a scoring threat, and ideally Coach Mike Sullivan likes to have all 4 lines provide a scoring threat. You have to believe GM Jim Rutherford is going to trade for a 3rd line center in the future. But when? It’s hard to trade for anyone in November, when every team still thinks they’re in it.
Me: What about Letang? He’s supposed to be the best defenseman on the team and he’s a minus 14!
Other Me: What do you expect from a guy that had surgery on his neck and missed half a year? He’s starting to come around so there’s no need to worry about him.
Me: well what about the record? They only lost 21 games all season last year and this year they’ve already lost 9!
Other Me: There could be a couple reasons for this. One is their schedule to start the season was brutal! They played more games than any other team in October, traveled more than any other team, and had several back to back games. It didn’t help that their backup goalie was Antti Niemi, which was a guaranteed loss in the 2nd of all those back to back games. Combine this with the fact that the Penguins have played more games than any other team the past 2 seasons, and they might’ve been tired. They have a lot of home games coming up and they have great record at home so look for the wins to pile up.