Home Record Streak Snapped at 13, Alarming Trends Come to Light in Loss
On January 20th, 2014 the Pittsburgh Penguins suffered their first home loss in over two months.
The complaints start with a 5-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. With the healthiest lineup of the season, a full four days off, and home ice advantage, Pittsburgh managed to play one of the worst games they have played all season.
Allowing five goals is always unacceptable. When a team allows five goals to a bottom percentile scoring threat, then you have an issue.
Since the Pittsburgh Penguins have gotten back a healthy Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, their GAA has risen considerably.
Since the return of Malkin and Letang the Penguins have given up 22 goals in just six games. Some will chalk this up to the team trying to find its way; however, it is more than that.
The play of Malkin and Letang tax others considerably. Malkin rarely takes defensive zone draws, forcing either Crosby or Sutter to handle them. With Joe Vitale out for the next few weeks as well, Crosby’s defensive zone time is considerably rising.
Malkin and Letang currently lead Pittsburgh in giveaways per game. Their careless and sometimes rash play has Pittsburgh back pedaling, instead of leading the rush. Their possession time has also dropped in the recent weeks, despite getting back two of the more dynamic offensive players in the NHL.
This trend is troublesome and not easily fixed. The Penguins have given Malkin and Letang franchise player status with their extensions, but their overall play continues leave a lot to be desired. In order to fix this trend Pittsburgh will have to make a trade.
Their bottom six production is pitiful and with a big hole in the top six Pittsburgh has to act. Beau Bennett is scheduled to return after the Olympic break. His return will likely sure up the Penguins bottom six, placing him alongside Sutter on the third line along with Taylor Pyatt or Jayson Megna. That leaves Craig Adams, Joe Vitale (IR), and Tanner Glass on the fourth line.
In order to fill out the top six, Pittsburgh will need to get a bigger bodied forward known for their two way play. Players such as Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler top the list of suggested players. Both players stand over 6’2 and would be an immediate upgrade to any current roster player.
While this is most likely an overreaction to a bad home loss, there is a terrible trend in Pittsburgh. Lack of production from the bottom six has worn out the top the six scorers and the return of offensively gifted players has resulted in a lack of defensive awareness.
Talent, as well as a large leads in the division and conference, have hidden some of Pittsburgh’s biggest issues. It is better to address these sooner rather than later. In the mean time, it is important for Dan Bylsma to create a lineup and stick with it. Create some semblance of chemistry and consistency is the most important asset for Pittsburgh heading into this final stretch of 9 games in 17 days.