Penguins Finally Snap Losing Streak; Suffer Devastating Losses on the Injury Front
After suffering three straight losses to likes of the Colorado Avalanche, the New York Islanders, and the Toronto Maple Leafs the Penguins finally beat the Carolina Hurricanes.
An entire week of losses gave the Penguins their first three game losing streak since the early going of the 2011-2012 season. In the three game losing streak the NHL’s leading point producer, Sidney Crosby, was held to just a single goal and no assists.
To be completely fair in this assessment the Penguins were still impressive in their five on five play. The Pens outshot the competition by an average of 12 shots per game and clearly had an advantage in time of possession, but the club was stonewalled by terrific goaltending and poor special teams.
During the three game losing streak the Penguins had zero success on their powerplay. With the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, Paul Martin, and Kris Letang this type of production is unacceptable. Many will point out that the current powerplay does not include a true sniper, something desperately missing with James Neal out of the lineup, but that is still not a viable excuse.
Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are both scoring champions, Kris Letang is a leader among defenders in points every season, and Paul Martin has a commanding presence on the point. If one of these players does not take charge as the “shooter” on the powerplay, the Penguins will be forced to alter this lineup.
The problem with a poor powerplay does not end with a lack of goals scored, it clearly effects the teams overall play.
One of the strongest lines in all of hockey is Crosby, Kunitz, and Dupuis while five on five. With the amount of powerplay time the pens continue to get, this line does not get to see the ice as much. That is a big problem for the Pens with many of the other lines lacking in production.
One line that has yet to produce consistently is the line of Evgeni Malkin, Jussi Jokenin, and Insert Name Here. Since the start of the season this line has had four wingers, three of which ended up on IR. Despite this change up Evgeni Malkin is still a super star and needs to produce like one.
If Malkin cannot improve on his play, the Penguins are going to be battling early on to stay relevant in the Eastern Standings. His three goals and ten points rank him third on the team in scoring and his minus three rating ties him for last place on the team.
In the game against Carolina on Monday night, the Penguins finally found some success. The Penguins dominated the first ten minutes of the game, putting nine shots on net and holding Carolina to zero.
Brooks Orpik, the Penguins most tenured member, led the charge. Orpik had three assists, three hits, and two blocked shots. He had countless deflections in the slot as well, keeping the ever dangerous Alex Semin at bay.
Close behind Orpik was Sidney Crosby who had two assists, won 59% of his faceoffs, and played a ridiculous twenty three minutes. His almost three minutes of shorthanded time on ice was a season high, showing how Crosby continues to expand his all around game.
Perhaps the most surprising part of the game was the play of rookie Jayson Megna. The undrafted free agent from the University of Nebraska at Omaha showed off his excellent speed and registered his first NHL assist and first NHL goal. With the current injuries to the Penguins forward core, his presence is going to be needed.
Injury Updates –
James Neal – Neal has just started to resume workouts and has not been cleared to practice. Many predict that Neal will remain out for roughly three more weeks.
Beau Bennett – Bennett has missed two weeks of play now with an undisclosed lower body injury. He is set to return to practice later this week, but it is unknown as to when he will return after that.
Rob Scuderi – The Piece, Scuderi, unfortunately has a broken ankle that will require surgery to repair. This broke Rob’s current streak of 276 consecutive games played. It is unknown as to when he can return, his surgery is scheduled for later this week. The Penguins are deep on defense and have plenty of talent to call up if necessary, but this is a tough loss. The hope is that Scuderi will be refreshed by the time he is asked to return and ready for a stretch run in the spring.
Chuck Kobasew - Chuck Kobasew has a lower body injury that will sideline him for a month. This is an unfortunate injury to an elder player who worked quite hard to make this club off of a professional try out.