Sports Magazine

Blog : Outshot in a Shootout...Pens Lose to Canadiens

By Kipper @pghsportsforum
The Pittsburgh Penguins lost yet again at home in a shootout Thursday night; this time to the Montreal Canadiens 6-5. In what was a back-and-forth roller-coaster ride, the Penguins couldn't manage to hang on for the win in regulation. With the shootout loss the Penguins failed to gain ground on Boston, but they did manage to maintained their 5 point lead over the Bruins, who also lost in overtime to the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday night.
Many were looking to see how the Penguins would play coming off of the long Olympic Break. The days between games totaled 20 for the Penguins, a very long time indeed. The Penguins have struggled this year as it has been well documented by several outlets including myself. With this loss, the Penguins are now 8-6-2 in games coming off of a 3+ day rest. The overall record isn't necessarily the problem as the Penguins are technically above a .500 win% at .563%, but the glaring and ominous problems is the number of goals the Penguins are allowing in these games. In the 16 total games played and not separating out wins and losses the Penguins have given up 3+ goals in 8 of 16 games...that's bang on at 50%. Ouch! To make matters worse, in 6 of the 8 losses, the Penguins have given up at least 4 goals! Double ouch! This is a testament to how rusty the Penguins are when they get "too much rest". Overall the Penguins are scoring goals, so offense isn't the problem. The Penguins have scores 49 goals in those 16 games for a 3.06 GPG average. Not bad at all. However, their GAA (goals against average) is 3.19, which is way too high. The save% is even worse at a .887%! That is just downright awful. So not only is the defense suspect in general, the goaltending is atrocious.
Now many Penguins' fans will be quick to mention that the referee's "cost the Penguins" the game, when they assessed a 5-minute match penalty to Tanner Glass for Elbowing. During that 5-minute power play, the Canadiens scored to tie the game at 5. While based on that alone, fans have an argument. However, that argument is feeble in my opinion. For the record I did think the call was bad, but the other 4 goals weren't the officials' fault, so how about we impart the blame where is squarely needs to go and that is on the players. What about the other 4 goals the Penguins allowed? How do you waste the 5 goals your offense gave you!? How about this Penguins' fans, you should worry less about the bad call, and more about the Penguins' overall sloppy defensive play and shoddy goaltending. Furthermore, what about that vaunted penalty kill for the Penguins? Where has it gone? In their past 2 games the Penguins have allowed 4 power play goals in 9 attempts. In two games the penalty kill has gone from a league leading 87.72% to 86.11%, a full 1.6% decline. That is as equally awful if not worse than their save% numbers. And to drop a full 1% takes "effort", especially a drop that happens that fast.
To that point, I think that the Penguins overall poor performance in games coming after long periods of rest has to have some level of blame thrown at the coaching staff as well. It is the coaching staff's responsibility to have the team prepared for every game. And while I know that you can't play perfect in every game, it would seem that when you are "well rested" you should play well because you are coached well and well prepared for the game. The fact that the Penguins are consistently inconsistent with respect to this scenario, tells me the coaching staff has to carry some blame.
So where do we go from here? It is one loss, and the Penguins did manage to at least eke out a point, albeit a very hollow point. But hollow or not, a point is a point and it does bring you one step close to your short term goal of clinching a playoff spot and a rite to play for the shot at the Stanley Cup. The Penguins now head to Chicago, to play outdoors on Saturday night against the Blackhawks. There will be a ton of "pomp and circumstance" around this game. The biggest drama line being the Towes vs Crosby angle. Much was made about the Crosby and Towes with respect to the Captaincy of Team Canada during the Olympics. And if you think I am stretching here, the fact that I see this being a talking point means the media knows it too and will play on it. Add to that. the game is being played outside and between two elite teams only adds fuel to the fire. Moreover, both teams are also coming off losses and will be looking to get back on the winning track. The game should be exciting for sure, and should be a good barometer for the Penguins as they continue their run to the playoffs.

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