The Penguins Will Win Again by @PennSt8Gal
2:00:00 PM Beau Bennett , Blake Comeau , Christian Ehrhoff , Dustin Jeffrey , Eric Tangradi , Evgeni Malkin , Kris Letang , Olli Maatta , Patric Hornqvist , Paul Martin , Pittsburgh Penguins , Richard Park , Sidney Crosby , Steve Downie Edit
Will the Penguins ever win again?
Well, let me start off by answering this question. The simple answer is yes. The Penguins will win again.
How do I know? Well, the law of averages is on our side. This team doesn't experience losing streaks very often. In fact, since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, the Penguins have only faced a losing streak of four or more games six times. This averages out to a minimum four game slump only once a season.
They lost five games in a row during November 2009. They have lost 4 games in a row on four different occasions since the Cup win. They achieved this once during the 2009-10 season and then again in February of 2011. Two of the four game losing streaks have occurred this season.
The longest losing stretch the Penguins have faced since 2009-10 was six games from 12/29/2011 to 1/11/2012. The Pens could’ve very easily used their annual excuse and blamed injuries during this time. Paul Martin and Richard Park returned to the lineup during game 3 of the streak. Dustin Jeffrey and Eric Tangradi were out for 4 and 5 games respectively. And if you recall, Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby were both sidelined at this time. The former due to concussion symptoms and the latter with newly discovered neck issues that had been misdiagnosed. Surprisingly enough, there was an upside to the six-game spell. When the Pens started winning again, they won eight contests in a row.
This season, the Pens lost four in a row from December 22nd through December 29th. They are currently at four losses stretching back to game 68 against Boston a week ago.
Now, a lot could be said of the first four-game slump in December. The Pens were decimated by injuries at the time. Beau Bennett was out with a knee injury. Adams had his Iron Man streak come to an end. Ehrhoff was out with a lower body injury. Martin had an undisclosed injury. Downie had the mumps, and Blake Comeau was sidelined with a broken wrist.
Though not as numerous as earlier in the season, I believe that injuries to Malkin and Hornqvist have played a significant role in the current losing streak. Malkin, who one could argue has been the Penguins MVP this season, has been out with a lower body injury since the second period of the Boston game last Saturday. He took an awkward hit to the hip/knee area on his first shift against the Bruins. This injury came a few short minutes after Sidney Crosby was scratched at the last second for what I can only assume was ‘tummy troubles’.
Patric Hornqvist was injured on Sunday in the game against Detroit. Late in the third period he was seen skating gingerly around the Detroit goal and holding his side. He played what was possibly his best game of the season on Sunday and all he had to show for it other than an assist on the only Penguins goal was the imprint of a hockey stick in his back and a non-contact injury. Thankfully his injury doesn't seem to be long term.
A significant difference between the first slump and our current one though is goal scoring. Over that four game losing streak in December, the Pens scored 7 goals to their opponents 14. As we are all well aware, this current slump has seen the Pens score only two goals over four games while their opponents have scored 11 goals.
So, what seems to be the issue?
Now, I like to think that I am a well-informed hockey fan. By general definition, I am. I know the basic rules, positions, and stat categories. What I do not get involved with though are defensive schemes, the special teams’ set-ups, or fancy stats of any kind.
I’m a die-hard casual fan. I watch every game from the comfort of my couch or the local bar with a big screen while wearing my Olli Maatta third jersey proudly. I yell at the television as if the players and coaches can hear any of what I’m screaming at them. I complain about the referees and the lack of calls in favor of my favorite team. I yell ‘SHOOOOOOOOOOT’ at least five times a period.
Does that make me qualified to criticize the team? Probably not, but what I lack in knowledge of the game I make up for in dedication. When they win, I am elated. When they lose a close game, I am devastated. I watch each and every game and experience the highs and lows with all of you. What really agitates me is that I know, and you know, that this team can be better. They can play better. They can score oodles of goals. They can keep their emotions in check, and they can play a defensive game. They can win a shootout.
I really do believe that to be a successful hockey team you have to not only play a complete game with minimal mistakes, but you also have to have a bit of momentum and luck. Well, maybe a lot of luck. The Penguins just haven’t had luck on their side recently. You can blame this player or that player. You can question the leadership of Crosby until you are blue in the face. You can blame the referees for not knowing their ass from a hole in the ground. No matter the excuse you come up with, it really could just be a string of bad luck.
I, for one, am not a ‘the sky is falling’ fan. I don’t start questioning everyone and everything when the team loses a few games. I sure as hell don’t think we should trade or fire everyone after every loss. Yes, I get frustrated, but that’s only because I know that this team can do better. They have lost some of their luster recently. They’ll get it back. I think this adversity is good for them. Play through it. Find a way to overcome it. If they do, it should be a very exciting post season. And yes, contrary to what some people out there want to believe, the Penguins will make the playoffs. It’s just up to them on how deep they go. And you better believe I will be on my couch wearing my jersey and yelling SHOOT until the final buzzer sounds.