The Ugly Truth About this Pittsburgh Penguins Team

Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it? (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

By: Jim Meinecke

If you were a Pittsburgh Penguins’ fan in the early 2000’s, that time period does not harness very good memories. The team struggled to win games, and talk about the Penguins leaving for another city was rampant. The draft of 2005 changed everything as the Penguins selected Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin joined the team the following season. With Mr. Lemieux’s support and backing, the city finally approved a new state-of-the-art arena. Most importantly, the organization and its fan base have enjoyed great success over the past seven or eight years. When that happens, we as fans become spoiled. We expect to win the Stanley Cup, or at least to be a serious contender for it, every season. That being said, it may be time for the fans to grab a seat and an adult beverage because it is time to face the facts about this 2014-15 Pittsburgh Penguins team.

The Power Play is a Real Issue

I know this has been beat to death, but it is worth repeating over and over again. The Pittsburgh Penguins power play is borderline awful at this point. The team is only at 16.67% in 2015, and has fallen to eighth in the NHL as of this post. They have no goals in February…none. Let’s be clear here, there is plenty of blame to go around. Sidney Crosby seems afraid to shoot the puck and looks uncomfortable working the half wall. The net front presence is there some of the time, and other times it is non-existent. The coaching staff thought it made sense to pull one of the best players in the world in Evgeni Malkin off of the first unit recently. This decision is never OK and makes no sense. Additionally, the coaching staff shares in the blame. While the players eventually have to execute, one would think that if the coaches were driving the point across about shooting more on the power play, the production would eventually become clear. The team, including the coaching staff, needs to realize that the power play does not need to be pretty. Many times a simple wrist shot and garbage rebound will do the trick and three perfect passes do not need to be made every…single…time.


The Stars Are Not Shining Bright Enough

I wrote a story a few weeks back on why Sidney Crosby’s “off” year is not as bad as people make it out to be, and I certainly stand by that article. That being said, this team is not getting enough from their stars, particularly when they need it the most. At times these superstars have unrealistic expectations set upon them by the fans. However, it is fair criticism to expect these stars to carry the team when it is needed the most. In tight games this season when a single play or goal could win the game for the Penguins, this is the time the stars have come up the smallest, and THAT is a problem. Evgeni Malkin has three game winning goals this season and Sidney Crosby has two. That is tied for 58th and 112th, respectively. That is not going to get it done. I know some of the time that GWG is an arbitary stat because a team can win 6-2 and the player that happened to score the third goal gets the credit. That being said, I don’t think it is a coincidence that Alex Ovechkin has seven GWGs, and Rick Nash has six. Big time players come up big when needed the most, and this hasn’t happened enough so far this season.


This Team is Not a True Stanley Cup Contender

Here is the section where readers may want to double down on those adult beverages. Let me start by reiterating that this Penguins team is not a Stanley Cup winning team. I think the notion they may miss the playoffs is rather silly, but I would be shocked if they make it out of the first round. Why? Team scoring has dropped this season. The “prolific” Penguins offense is currently ranked 12th in the NHL. Toronto has scored just as many goals as the Penguins, and the Senators have scored just three fewer. I have already mentioned the power play struggles, and they certainly factor in to this as well. The most important thing to think about here is where they stack up in the Eastern Conference. For a team used to being a favorite to come out of the East, they are not even in the top three of their division currently. Yes, they are tied for second with the New York Rangers, but ask yourselves who you would take in a seven game series with the NY Islanders, NY Rangers, and Washington Capitals. The answer to any of those would not be the Pittsburgh Penguins. This team’s record against the Metropolitan is a joke at 7-9-4. The Penguins will almost certainly matchup against one of these teams in the playoffs, and they will struggle mightily. Worse than that, the team has beat up on non-playoff teams this season. As of the current standings, the Penguins are 15-12-6 against playoffs teams, and 17-4-3 against teams not in the playoffs. Those are some very troubling and telling statistics.


I will attempt to leave you all on a bit of a high note. There is plenty of time in the season for the Penguins to look like they did in October and November. The stars can return to the level everyone expects. The power play can figure everything out and return to the outstanding level seen earlier this season. The team can still get stronger at the deadline based on some of Rutherford’s moves. However, each game without a noticeable power play, or a consistent effort for 60 minutes, and those trends listed above become firm realities. It is not something fans want to acknowledge, but there is a real good chance this Pittsburgh Penguins team will disappoint in a major way this spring/summer. It is not fun to admit, but it has been the ugly truth thus far.

Thanks for reading. Look me up on Twitter @PandaPSU.