The Penguins on Thin Ice – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

The Penguins on Thin Ice

It is 3 AM and I can’t sleep. I heard the snow plows grinding away at their job up here on my hill, doing their job, making sure my neighbors and I have a clear road to drive on. Maybe it was they who woke me up? I don’t know. I have headache as well. Who knows? I am not going to get back to sleep for a while so I might as well rant.

After hearing the snow plows and with the memories of another hockey night of frustration all I can hear is Paul Simon;

“Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away”

And let’s face it, with each passing loss, so are the Penguins’ three-peat chances.

We have just 1 game left to play in 2017. We did have a great ride to a repeat Championship. Repeating as Stanley Cup Champions is a real tough thing to do. It hadn’t been done in since 1997-1998.

Unfortunately for us Penguins’ fans, 2017 is closing out in a December that we will not want to remember. After capturing a second Cup just 6 short months ago and being crown the best team in hockey, our favorite flightless fowl have strung together a December record that is tied for 23rd in the league, gleaning a mere 12 points to date.

One of the most fearsome offenses in the league last year, has had a month long slump. Our Penguins’ offense, after having chased elite goalies (Sergei Bobrovsky, Braden Holtby, Craig Anderson, and Pekka Rinne) from play-off games has managed to barely cling to the 19th spot in goals/60 minutes (2.58) for their efforts in December. And last night, well our Penguins couldn’t even manage to reach their average, scoring only 1 time off of the stick of Brian Dumoulin.

Does anyone really think that patience is called for? Yes, the team is injured right now, but with nearly half the season gone, it isn’t going to get any better. Had the team taken action a month ago, then maybe, patience and wait for the injured players to get back could have been a watch word. Maybe the team would have been in a position to weather this storm but I can’t help but think that through November it wasn’t patience but burying our heads in the sand. The signs were there. The organization failed to act.

Am I being a knee-jerk reactionary, or maybe just a jerk? Let’s look at the standings; our Penguins are 3 points out of a play-off spot and the team, we need to pass the New York Islanders, has a game in hand on us. You decide.

Odds and Sods

Even though the Parent club is struggling, Wilkes Barre – Scranton (WBS) is back on in the win column, crushing Hartford 5 – 1. Daniel Sprong had the hat trick and added an assist for a 4 point night. Teddy Blueger and Adam Johnson had 2 assists a piece and Zach Aston-Reese notched a short-handed goal for the Baby Penguins.

Sprong now has 18 goals, 28 points, 7 power play goals, a shooting% of 19.1 and has shaved his +/- to -2. You really can’t compare NHL and AHL stats but I still am going to wonder out loud why he remains in WBS when the parent club is struggling to score goals and has players like Conor Sheary (-8) playing, players who have not yet been on the plus side of their +/- all season and have gone very long stretches without scoring. I mention Sheary but he isn’t the only one.

Sprong has been on the plus side at times this season and is hovering near even. Furthermore, a team that is 27th in the league in shooting% (8.0) should be looking to add someone who can find the back of the net. Even if his shooting % were cut in half at the NHL level it would still raise the Parent clubs overall team shooting%.

Hockey is about outscoring your opponent any possible way, even strength or on the power play. Scoring 1 or 2 goals per game this season isn’t going to win you many hockey games. This Penguin team needs to score goals.

Team Sweden and Penguin prospect Filip Gustavsson take to the ice again this afternoon against Switzerland in the 2018 World Junior Championships against Team Switzerland. Good Luck Gustavsson!

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    December 31, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Hey Coach
    We got our wish. Daniel will finally get his chance to play against Detroit.
    I hope he plays more than 7 minutes on a 4fh line.
    He is in a tough spot for sure. Praying he does okay.
    With out major changes we are in trouble!
    Happy New Year to you my friend😀.

  2. the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
    December 30, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Just saw something saying Murray will be back for Tomorrows game.

  3. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    December 30, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Hey all,

    Not to add more fuel to an already raging fire, but I thought Brian Dumoulin played his second really strong game in a row.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Letang’s been out both games. Honestly, playing next to No. 58 (and having to cover for him) has pretty much killed Dumo’s season thus far.

    When Letang comes back, I’d try pairing him with Hunwick, who seems comfortable in a stay-at-home role. It might help mitigate some of Tanger’s mistakes (probably wishful thinking) while freeing up Dumoulin to play his game.


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      December 30, 2017 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,

      Agreed, I think Dumoulin has a a couple of really good games. He has been taking command of the puck and carrying it with authority rather than deferring to Letang.

      Let’s face it, although Letang has always flashed his offensive prowess he has also always been a defensive liability. He hasn’t had a positive double digit +/- since he was paired with Paul Martin (2014-2015). Martin was the last D man that could really cover for him. I was very vocal about resigning him just to cover Letang.

      I am not so sure about pairing Hunwick with Letang though, Hunwick is pretty much the same liability as Letang. Although Hunwick has a much better +/- at -3 (still not in the positive), he is one of the few Penguins with a negative CORSI. Hunwick is currently a -28 in even strength shot attempts which comes out to a 48.1% Hunwick was on the ice for both goals against last night.

      If it were up to me and I could find takers, both Letang and Hunwick would be gone. I know some people may argue with me, and they are entitled to their opinions. But I can’t foresee any argument to change my mind.

  4. Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
    December 30, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Hey Other Rick,

    Once again, just great stuff.

    The reference to Slip Slidin’ Away was just perfect…and altogether appropriate. To borrow from “Days of Our Lives”, like sands through the proverbial hour glass the games keep trickling by. And with them, chance after chance to gain any sort of traction or momentum.

    I was having a brew-ski (or two-ski) at the Pennsbury Pub after the game last night when another Pens fan…ironically named Rich…came by to commiserate and voice his frustration.

    We’ve had several conversations over the past few weeks and, while you never want to concede a season, we both feel that missing the playoffs is a very real possibility…probably more likely than the Pens qualifying at this stage.

    On a motivational level, our guys just can’t seem to maintain any drive or fire for any length of time. Again, a sign…I think…of a team that’s worn down, mentally and emotionally, from the dual Cup runs.

    Toss in the fact that other teams have improved and remain hungry, not to mention our very real issues…shaky team defense, total lack of scoring depth and difficulty scoring at even strength to name a few…and it might not be our year.

    I, too, saw that the Pens called up Sprong. I’ll be curious to see how his game translates to the NHL. There’s no questioning the kid’s pedigree. Hopefully, he’ll score some goals and perhaps open things up for some other guys, most notably Sid. We sure could use a spark.

    Along the same lines, I notice Teddy Blueger’s on a bit of a roll (4+4 in his past six games). Perhaps he’ll be next.


    • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
      December 30, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Hey Rick,


      You-ski had a brew-ski or two-ski? Too bad the Pens O didn’t have a clue-ski,
      last night. But in all seriousness, as much as I really want to be borrow a Stallone line and “Go for it” that 3-peat window is perched precariously on the edge of a razor right now. The margin for error is rapidly approaching zero. If they can’t string together 5 or 6 wins over the next 2 weeks, I will probably join the “gird for next year” camp. If the team fails to make the play-offs this year (funny how low I am setting the bar now after dreaming about a 3-peat) then they need look no farther than there pathetic off-season laurel sitting and their sentimentality of not thinking outside the box and considering swapping players who they “owed so much too” (thank you for being honest JR).

      They could also blame abandoning “what brung ’em”. They burned the league with speed and youth, not being afraid to sit veterans and give youth its day. Right from the get-go they started down the wrong path in the off-season, trading away a draft pick to get Vegas to take Fleury (as if they would take anyone else) and then trading down in the draft and discarding a young center (Okay so he probably was going nowhere here) for a 30 yr old winger who has scored 1 goal, won all 6 of his fights, and is a -8 on team that has slipped from Champion and not to simply contender but to pretender; almost down to pretending to even be an NHL calibre team.

      Although I was glad (no actually overjoyed would be a more accurate description to my reaction) when I saw Sprong was being called up, I was disappointed in seeing who they sent down. I mean no disrespect to Garrett Wilson and I am interested in seeing him play an NHL regular season game, the move just goes back to my complaint of forgetting “what brung ‘um”, sacrificing speed.

      I have really been following WBS (Statistically as I noted before) so I have watched Blueger making a case for himself but I am wondering if he is in a worse boat than Sprong was. It seems that the Penguins are committed to Sheahan and Rowney at Center.

  5. The Other Rick's Gravatar The Other Rick
    December 30, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Finally!!! The Penguins announced that they are bringing up Daniel Sprong. For the Penguins, for Sprong himself, and for my ego (having whined for all these months) good luck Sprong!!

    • P krundle's Gravatar P krundle
      December 30, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Here you go. I guess Rutherford couldn’t’t sleep last night either. This should be interesting. I hope you are right!

      • the Other Rick's Gravatar the Other Rick
        December 30, 2017 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        Hey Phil,

        For the teams sake and not my ego, I agree, I hope I was right.
        But then again, even if Sprong does recharge the Pens batteries the way Guentzel did last year, the counter argument could still be he only would be playing as well as I have hoped for because he had that extra seasoning before coming up, so I really couldn’t say to anyone “I told you so”. Any case I would make would seem to be a bit equivocal to its counter.


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