Offensive Woes Persist as Penguins Bow to Flames – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Offensive Woes Persist as Penguins Bow to Flames

Over the course of an arduous, 82-game NHL schedule, it’s inevitable for our Penguins to struggle in certain areas from time to time.

Defensive lapses…check. Turnover troubles…check. Occasional ugly loss…check. Inability to score…now wait a minute.

Of all the maladies that could’ve afflicted our team, I sure didn’t anticipate this one. Yet the Pens are struggling to score. Really struggling.

Including last night’s 2-1 overtime loss at Calgary, when they narrowly averted a shutout by the collective hairs of their chinny chin chins, the black and gold have tallied a grand total of 11 goals over their past seven games. Seven-Eleven may be a great name for a convenience store, but it makes for a lousy games-to-goals ratio.

Among those 11 goals, five have come on the power play. Which means we’ve averaged less than one even-strength goal per game. Scratch a pair of Phil Kessel game winners, scored during 3-on-3 overtime, and we’ve notched just four 5-on-5 goals over the seven-game span.


It’s been an equal-opportunity slump, afflicting superstars and support players alike. Sidney Crosby’s goalless in his last seven. Jake Guentzel’s been dry as a bone for the past six; Bryan Rust for 10.

Excluding Patric Hornqvist, who’s frequently skated on the third line, the bottom six has been abysmal (a paltry four goals combined). As a group, they haven’t scored since Carter Rowney tickled the twine against Florida on October 20…roughly dating back to Mike Lange’s proverbial eighth-grade picnic.

Following a fast start, our defense hasn’t contributed on the score sheet, either. They’re in the throes of a five-game drought, which coincides with the absence of puck-mover Justin Schultz.

Heck, if it weren’t for our power play, remarkably productive (29.1 percent) considering the team’s malaise, we might not score at all.

It isn’t that our guys aren’t tryin’. Over the past seven games we’ve unleashed 245 shots on goal, a healthy average of 35 per game. At 51.1 percent, we have a solid, if not dominant, edge in total shot attempts. But the puck’s not going in.

Mike Sullivan’s tried everything short of enrolling his troops in The Mario Lemieux School for the Offensively Challenged. He’s juggled lines and put the team through special battle drills in practice. He even grafted heavyweight Ryan Reaves onto Evgeni Malkin’s right flank for a spell in an attempt to discover a little hidden vigorish, to no avail.

The good news?

Logic dictates the slump won’t last forever. The Pens possess too much firepower to flounder indefinitely. A breakout game’s a-comin’, perhaps as early as Tuesday night when the locals at long last return to the friendly confines of PPG Paints Arena to take on Rick Tocchet’s hapless Arizona Coyotes.

In the meantime? Keep shootin’, boys.

Jarry Shines

Goalie Tristan Jarry sparkled last night in his 2017-18 Penguins debut. The former second-round pick made 32 saves, 14 during a high-energy second period. He stopped Doug Hamilton on back-to-back shots and robbed Sean Monahan with a pad save from the slot in the closing seconds of the frame.

Seven minutes into the third period, Jarry thwarted Mark Jankowski on a breakaway.

“It’s not the outcome I wanted. I thought I played well,” confessed the 22-year-old rookie. “I thought I played very well positionally. I thought I played tight and I thought it was a step in the right direction for me.”


Hornqvist scored on a deflection with 72 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Malkin and Kris Letang assisted on the play.  Despite the team’s offensive woes, “Geno” has a four-game scoring steak, including three goals. Letang has five points in his past four games.

Defenseman Frank Corrado played in his second game of the season for the Pens, logging 12:44 of ice time. He blocked a game-high four shots and belted Flames forward Mikael Backlund with a big hit late in the second period.

The Pens are presently tied with Columbus and New Jersey for first place in the Metropolitan Division with 18 points.

*Be sure to check out Rick Buker’s books,
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  1. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    November 3, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    A very good article, funny too!!
    I couldn’t watch the game last night, one of my boy’s I coach played and won 4-2 by the way!!
    Hopefully it is just a dry spell and the boy’s will get back on track, at least they are getting shots and outshooting other teams. Keep that going and it leads to more scoring chances and hopefully that leads to goals.
    I personally think we don’t have ( other than Phil the Thrill) a real shooter, a guy you can count on to fire the puck on goal, we have some really great players but we need a shooter for Sid or Geno to play with…. now we don’t really have one in the AHL. Except for Sprong, and that’s about it??

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      November 3, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Hey Pen’s 4ever,

      Congratulations on your team’s victory! Sounds like you and your son are enjoying more success than our Pens … 🙂

      Interesting observation, regarding a bona fide sniper. Kessel still possesses a great shot. But playing with Malkin, he’s actually morphed into more of a setup guy the past couple of seasons while Geno’s assumed the role of shooter.

      Based on his track record in junior and his quick start with the Baby Pens, Sprong sure seems like the real deal. But until he actually establishes himself in the NHL, you just never know how a kid’s going to pan out.


      PS–Glad you liked the article … 🙂

  2. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    November 3, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Hey Rick,

    I am working on a post myself, but wanted to pop in here; Excellent piece.
    Question, how much of the current struggles do you think can be attributed to teams really getting up to shut down the reigning champs?

    Also, how much do you think the lack of a Bonino/Cullen quality center on the third line is now rippling up to the first and second lines? Let’s face it, when Kessel had a Bonino/Cullen to anchor his line, when Crosby and Malkin where held in check, his line could fly. Now Crosby and Malkin have no protection. Other teams can concentrate solely on them.

    These are peripheral questions I will be exploring later.

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      November 3, 2017 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Hey Other Rick,

      Sorry for the delay in commenting. Don’t you hate when life intervenes … 🙁

      I was all set to unequivocally agree, when I decided to run some numbers comparing this season to last. The results surprised me.

      Using a top six of Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Guentzel, Sheary and Kunitz, here’s a breakdown of our total goal production in ’16-17:
      Top Six: 181 goals (64.2%)
      Bottom Six: 68 goals (24.1%)
      Defense: 33 goals (11.7%)

      Substituting Hagelin for Kunitz, here’s the breakdown for ’17-18:
      Top Six: 25 goals (62.5%)
      Bottom Six: 9 goals (22.5%)
      Defense: 6 goals (15%)

      Of course, the delineation of who’s top six and bottom six varies from game to game. So these numbers aren’t precise, by any means. And what do they say about statistics…that they belong in the same category as damned lies (or something like that)?

      Numbers aside, I agree that we really miss Bonino and Cullen, for all the reasons you mentioned and, possibly, more. We’re starting to remind me a little of the late Shero-Bylsma era, when we had guys like Craig Adams, Tanner Glass, Chuck Kobasew, Taylor Pyatt and Joe Vitale (who I loved) rounding out the bottom six.

      Not to demean any of them…anyone who makes it to the NHL is a heck of an athlete. But not a Cup-winning mix, either.


      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        November 3, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

        Hey Rick,

        Interesting look at the Pens scoring.

        First, you say your numbers are based off of total goal production and not just looking at even strength goal production. With Malkin-Crosby-Kessel-Hornqvist-Kunitz all on the PP that skews the data.

        Second, Kessel and Hornqvist bounced back and forth between first, second and third lines. In fact, many writers last year tried to explain Kessel’s lack of shooting and goal scoring and his rise in assists as him getting his own line, the third line., so again his numbers skew the total data.

        Kunitz also found himself bouncing up and down the line-up often even finding himself on the fourth line.

        Just a push back to consider

        • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
          November 3, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

          I hear ya’, Other Rick. That’s why I made my comment about statistics and lies … 🙂

          Still, when I compiled the numbers for this season, I fully expected them to be much more skewed toward the Top Six than they are.

          Again, I recognize that it’s hardly a precise or comprehensive look, for many of the factors you mentioned.



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