disastrous performances in front of Fleury actually haunted the Penguin

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disastrous performances in front of Fleury actually haunted the Penguin

Post by elvafeng » 23 Oct 2017, o 10:29

Hey, at least they have their health.

The Penguins are 5 3 1 after their 7 1 loss Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.

It might be tempting to panic, especially when you take stock of all that’s ailing the Penguins these days — the inconsistent effort, the defensive lapses, the shoddy goaltending away from Matt Murray and leaky penalty kill.

You might think the sky is falling. Unless, of course, you’re able to remember all the way back to last season. When pretty much this same exact stuff happened.

Penguins goalie Antti Niemi reacts after Tampa Bay Lightning s Nikita Kucherov scores against him during the second period Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tampa, Fla.
Jason Mackey
Antti Niemi, Penguins fall flat in 7 1 loss to Tampa
Remember that 5 1 loss Oct. 22, 2016 at Nashville, Tenn., the one where Marc Andre Fleury was pulled after 40 minutes, and Mike Condon finished it?

“We have to become a more difficult team to play against. It starts with our decision making, but it’s beyond that. ... We show signs when we have our game together, and we’re hard to play against. We show other signs where we don’t make the right decisions , we’re late getting to pucks, we don’t hang onto pucks, and as a result https://www.penguinspitfans.com/greg-mc ... -c-17.html, we’re easy to play against.”

That was Penguins coach Mike Sullivan a year ago.

It could’ve easily been Sullivan Saturday.

Like that game, and for much of the start to last season, the Penguins have been up and down defensively and particularly susceptible in the second period; Nashville scored four times to cue the rout then, and this season the Penguins have coughed up an NHL worst 16 goals in the middle period.

Such inconsistency would explain why the Penguins led the NHL goals allowed 39 before Sunday and were permitting the fifth highest rate of five on five shot attempts per 60 minutes of ice time 63.54 , yet ranked among the top 10 in points earned.

“We went through similar circumstances last year coming out of the gates,” Sullivan said Saturday. “We were able to find ways to win the games, and we’re doing the same right now.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy makes a Olli Maatta Jersey save as Penguins center Sidney Crosby gets tied up by Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek during the first period Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Tampa, Fla.
Jason Mackey
It was a bad call Sidney Crosby fumes over early trips to penalty box
“We know as a group we’re capable of becoming a much better team. A lot of it boils down just to discipline and details of our game and making sure that we play with the necessary urgency that we need to in order to have success.”

Another way to translate that We’ve won back to back Stanley Cup titles, been on top of the mountain twice, and man , it’s hard to give a hoot when we’re back down at the bottom.

The Penguins, of course https://www.penguinspitfans.com/evgeni- ... -c-18.html, won’t use this as an excuse. Not publicly, anyway. Which is why we’re left to crunch numbers and paint a picture with stats.

Through six games last season, the Penguins were short handed an average of five times per game and killed 80 percent of the opposing team’s power plays. This year, those numbers are 4.7 and 78.6.

They were allowing 3.8 goals per game through the first half dozen contests in 2016 17, 4.33 this season. Had the Penguins lost, 5 1, in Chicago instead of 10 5, those numbers would match. Their shots on goal numbers — 34 per game through the first six in 2016 17, 33.4 this time around — also track.

Antti Niemi has pretty much been the Antti Fleury to this point, but there are some parallels in team performance. In addition to Nashville, Fleury was shelled for four goals in a poor defensive effort Oct. 18, 2016 in Montreal.

If you recall, disastrous performances in front of Fleury actually haunted the Penguins much of last season; they were simply better with Murray in goal. Ditto for 2017 18.

The concern with Niemi should be https://www.penguinspitfans.com/tom-kuh ... -c-19.html greater given the wretched season he’s trying to erase — a 3.30 goals against average and .892 save percentage in Dallas, last or next to last among qualifying goaltenders in both, the poor performance leading to the Stars eventually buying him out of his contract.

But even if the Penguins decide to junk Niemi and roll with either Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith, that doesn’t diminish the larger issue here, that the Penguins are a “flawed hockey team,” according to their coach.

The biggest test will be correcting those flaws, although with the way Sullivan has worked, there’s little reason to believe that it won’t happen.

“They’ve always had the ability to respond and make sure that we try to heed the lessons and learn from it,” Sullivan said. “Certainly, we’re not going to dwell on it. We’re going to go back to work on Monday. We’re going to try and get better.”

Pretty much the lone difference between what the Penguins have experienced this season versus last is that they have their best players healthy Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Matt Murray. So, instead of knocking their chances, maybe go outside and knock on a piece of wood instead.

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