The Penguins are 6-10-0 in their last 16 games. They are giving up goals at an alarming rate. 58 in this span of games for a 3.63 goals against. It seems that the only way they can get a victory lately is to score a handful or more of goals, or get a goaltending performance that is above the call of duty. Against a mediocre New York Islander team this past week they needed both. Against the Capitals they got neither.
There are only two teams in the NHL without a shutout so far this year – Pittsburgh and Carolina. Take a guess how many goalies in the league have at least one shutout this year — go ahead, you won’t come close. The answer is 44, meaning that at least 16 backup goalies from some very weak teams have shutouts. Brodeur has seven alone, Chicago has two goalies with 4 each, and the Phoenix Coyotes have 5 shutouts These facts lead me to the reason that the Penguins are not playing very well of late. In reality their defensive play has been sub-par for most of this season. Their 31-20-1 record is a little inflated because they are 9-1 in overtime and shootouts.
All the Penguins talk about attention to detail in the locker room, but do nothing about it on the ice. Opponents are left alone in good scoring areas on many occasions, because the Penguins either don’t know or don’t follow out their assignments. Another weakness is the ability to clear the zone even after getting the puck. They refuse to make the simple play of just getting the puck over the blue line — thus giving up more scoring opportunities. When the season started I didn’t foresee this as being an issue, but Scuderi’s defensive skills are greatly missed. I know he was not affordable, but pursestrings are still tight. The Pens need a defenseman who is strong in his own end. Here’s hoping Shero will address this need in some fashion.
One statistical area that is often overlooked is the giveaway/takeaway category. I believe that these numbers give an indication of how a team is playing. Giveaways are a result of laziness and poor decision-making. Takeaways are a result of hard work. The Penguins have had more giveaways than takeaways in many of their games this season. I don’t want to pick on Malkin, but he is the poster boy for giveaways this season, when last year he was one of the best in the league in the takeaway department. Come on Geno — We Need You Back!!!
Bylsma wants his team to thrive on playing defense in the offensive zone, meaning that when you have the puck, the other team can’t score. The Penguins have not been as successful pinning teams in their own end as they were last year down the stretch. The Penguins are in the defensive zone more often, which they are not used to. For the Pens to be successful for the rest of the season and into the playoffs, they will have to improve at both ends of the ice. That’s the view from E-11.
Note — The powerplay remains a Yeoke/joke. How does one so inept keep a job for so long? With his credentials, how can he possibly tell Sid and Geno how to score goals?
Note — Steigy remains a joke. How does one so inept keep a job for so long? With his credentials, how can he possbily describe how Sid and Geno score goals?