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The Struggling Pittsburgh Penguins

Struggling Pittsburgh Penguins

Despite starting the year off strong, it looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins are starting to be in trouble. They’ve shown flashes of promise in their past few games, but not nearly enough to secure some much-needed wins. Now, sitting in the bottom half of the standings, the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins need to focus on multiple aspects of their game to succeed.

Lack Of Offensive Urgency

To put it simply, the offense needs to score to win games. Albeit, the Penguins’ have been doing that but it seems they only kick it into high gear either in the beginning or in the waning moments of the game. For example, in the game against the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 6, the Penguins scored three goals in the first period and a half. After that, only one goal in the third.

Struggling Pittsburgh Penguins

Image Courtesy of Joe Sargent/Getty Images

A shining example of urgency late in the game is the game on Nov. 9 against the Chicago Blackhawks. There were no goals for either team in the first period, but the Blackhawks struck twice in the second. Finally, in the third period, Pittsburgh’s offense dominated and scored two goals at the hands of Jeff Carter. Eventually, the game went into a shootout where the Penguins received yet another loss.

The offense is getting pucks in the net, but they seem to be too inconsistent in doing so. It doesn’t count for much if the offense shows up at certain points in the game. The Penguins’ offense needs to be out to score goals every single second they are on the ice, and there is no exception. In short, they have to have the pedal to the metal every second of the game.

Undermanned Defense

The defense has been taking hits left and right this season. These past few games were no exception. Chad Ruhwedel, Brian Dumoulin and Marcus Pettersson have been on the COVID-19 Protocol List, meaning they have not been able to play. These three are nearly vital to the defensive core as they are the more “shut-down” style of players.

Struggling Pittsburgh Penguins
Image Courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire

It’s been clear the defense has struggled without them. In the past three games, there have been eight goals against the Penguins in regulation. It’s hard to blame goaltender Tristan Jarry as he has been playing his heart out. In the same three games, he has a cumulative .928 save percentage. Those numbers speak for themselves.

Then again, there’s not much that the Penguins can do with three of their more experienced defensemen out. However, both Ruhwedel and Pettersson have been cleared from COVID protocol. They will prove to be a much-needed breath of fresh air for the defense. Until then, the other, less experienced guys will have to step up and get it done.

Silver Lining

Thankfully, the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins have some semblance of a silver lining to their play. Their penalty-killing unit has been nothing short of remarkable. As of Wednesday, the Penguins have the top-ranked penalty kill in the league with a kill rate of 92.31%. The opposition has only allowed two goals in a total of 26 penalty kills.

Struggling Pittsburgh Penguins
Image Courtesy of Getty Images

Both Zach Aston-Reese and Teddy Blueger proved the value of their new contracts. They’ve blown expectations out of the water so far. Brock McGinn, who was signed in free agency, has meshed with Blueger well as the tandem has not allowed a single goal on the penalty kill. They’ve certainly been the brightest spot of the Penguins’ play as of late.

Pittsburgh has to hope to up their game in order to start consistently winning games in regulation. Sure, winning in either overtime or shootouts is fine, but making sure the opposition doesn’t get that extra point can mean the difference between making or missing the playoffs in the long run. Once they can figure that out, nothing’s stopping them from having a successful year.


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