What a rough start of the season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Their game on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres marked the third consecutive loss. Despite the loss, there were some bright spots to their game, believe it or not. Of course, the game wasn’t all bright because of the loss, so there are still things that need worked on.
Mixed Review: The Offense
The entire Penguins’ offense could’ve been considered a bright spot, but there’s an asterisk with that. They were quite dominant, to say the least. How dominant? Well, Pittsburgh accumulated a shocking 46 shots on goal versus Buffalo’s 19. There was only one player on the Penguins’ roster who didn’t have at least one shot on goal, so that’s something worth mentioning.
Now moving on to that asterisk. The Penguins lost the game, 2-1. There were only 46 shots on goal, but only one sneaks past the goalie? Although Sabres’ goaltender Dustin Tokarski was playing his heart out, there’s absolutely zero reason that Pittsburgh couldn’t have scored more. With Jake Guentzel, Jeff Carter and even Sidney Crosby, it’s beyond confusing as to how there weren’t more goals.
While on the topic of Crosby, something about his game just isn’t the same. This is only his third game of the season after being injured and after clearing COVID protocol. He just hasn’t had the same commanding presence on the ice as he’s always seemed to have. If he doesn’t figure his game out soon, the Penguins are certainly going to be in trouble.
Bright Spot: Penalty-Killing Unit
Thankfully, one part of the Penguins’ game has seemed to return to form. The penalty-killing unit did not allow a single powerplay goal. That’s great and all, but exactly how many powerplays did the Sabres actually have? That would be five. In five powerplays, the penalty-killing unit did not allow a goal. That’s certainly not nothing.
Leading the team with time on ice while shorthanded was offseason free agency signing Brock McGinn. The Penguins were looking to cover their losses after losing Brandon Tanev to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, and McGinn seemed to be a solution. What a solution he’s been as a two-way forward. He has been one of the main players on the penalty-killing unit.
Of course, the penalty-killing unit can’t be mentioned without giving kudos to Teddy Blueger. In the offseason, he signed a surprising $4.4 million, two-year contract. To put it plainly, Blueger has certainly lived up to that contract. He’s remained one of, if not the, top two-way forwards on the Penguins roster. He will certainly be quite the asset to Pittsburgh in the years to come.
Needs Work: Defense and Goaltending
By no means is the defense bad. There’s just one big part that is no doubt contributing to the opposition scoring. When the stats of the game are looked at, the Penguins’ defense only has four blocked shots. Buffalo’s defense had 13. Preventing shots on goal is a big part of the defense’s role. If that means getting low and blocking shots on goal, then so be it.
Then again, once a shot gets past the defense, the goalie has to be on their game. Goaltender Tristan Jarry certainly wasn’t. In the 19 shots on goal Buffalo had, two snuck past Jarry. In total, he had a .895 save percentage. Jarry has been fairly solid so far this year, so hopefully, he can snap out of it. If this kind of play continues, however, Pittsburgh will be in even more trouble.
The game certainly showed some strengths and weaknesses of the Penguins. Thankfully, having a strong penalty-killing unit is quite important. However, the offense needs to actually start putting more pucks into the back of the net. Furthermore, the defense should prioritize blocking shots on net, and Jarry needs to snap out of the slump he’s in. If the Penguins turn these things around, they’re going to be a formidable opponent. If not, then they could be looking forward to a miserable season.
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