Ryan Pawloski shares his thoughts on the Pittsburgh Penguins’s form since the restart and tries to work out what’s wrong with the team.
The Pittsburgh Penguins head into game 4 of the series against the Montreal Canadiens down 2-1. The Canadiens were able to bounce back from a 3-1 deficit and defeat the favored Penguins by a score of 4-3 in regulation. The Penguins are now reeling as they face elimination in-game for, on Sidney Crosby’s birthday nonetheless. There have been obvious issues for the Penguins throughout this series and Montreal has been able to take advantage of those issues.
The Penguins were finally able to spark their power play in game 3 by cashing in on their chances that caused two goals awarded to the Penguins. Other than that, and the tremendous effort by Brandon Tanev and his line to score the third goal, the Penguins got straight up outplayed. Most of the games, especially in the last half, the Penguins looked tired and slow.
Coaching has been a big issue it seems so far for the Penguins and Mike Sullivan and his crew have made some questionable changes so far along with the lineup. Well, not changes, but lack thereof so far in this competition. Line changes are inevitable when teams can’t score, but the Penguins have refused to do that besides benching Jared McCann for Sam Lafferty in game 3. As a game goes along and the series with a lack of scoring, changes need to be made up and down the lineup to try and gain an offensive spark.
Sullivan and his staff will need to make a handful of changes to the lineup before game four begins, a spark is a much-needed one for this team. Some recommendations would be to insert speed into the lineup someway to try and match Montreal. Another thing would bench the bottom pair and slide in Chad Ruhwedel and Jusso Riikola.
For a spark to ignite the team, Sullivan will need to sit Patrick Marleau, Patrick Hornqvist, Sam Lafferty, Justin Schultz, Jack Johnson, and Matt Murray. Replace those players with Evan Rodrigues, Adam Johnson, McCann, Ruhwedel, Riikola, and Tristan Jarry.
Many people blame goaltenders upon first glance and specifically the starter, Matt Murray. Murray has not played well this season besides the amazing start in game 2. Murray has not looked like he once did during his back to back cup championship campaigns. Now facing eliminations, it seems the Penguins will turn to All-star goaltender, Jarry.
Enough about goaltenders because even though Murray has not looked amazing, his defense has caused high scoring chances when they are in the Penguins defensive zone. Forwards are slowly getting back to defend and the beyond abysmal pairing of Justin Schultz and Jack Johnson have not done anything good for the Penguins all season. Schultz used to be a solid top-four defenseman in this league, but ever since his leg injury just a couple seasons ago, he has not been the same. Johnson on the other hand has less skill than a minor league hockey player. I recognize he is a nice guy and probably good for the locker room, but when your pairing is responsible for five out of the seven goals the opposing team scores, you are not good you are a liability and terrible at your job. When other people are bad at their jobs in normal life, they are fired, but Mike Sullivan decides to keep the accountant messing up the numbers and continue to push the problem.
Lack of scoring depth
Other than a few goals, Sidney Crosby and his line have been on the ice creating the only offense for the Penguins thus far in this series. The play of all lines below his have been below subpar and so have their scoring chances. There is a Carey Price effect, that is understandable, but the fact that only Crosby’s line is generating the best offense and zone time is extremely concerning. Geno Malkin is a huge issue for the Penguins right now because he simply is just not providing anything to this Penguins team. He needs to step up big time over these next few games to even give the Penguins a shot at winning this series.
The third line seems to be the most disappointing with the high hopes they had going into this series. Jared McCann was expecting to emerge as the third line center of the future, but instead, he was benched after two games. Patrick Marleau and Patrick Hornqvist have not looked skilled at all and just seem slow. Hornqvist at least still goes hard to the net and challenges Carey Price.
The fourth line seems to be the only other possibility for an offense for the Penguins as they are very reliable defensively but move into the opposing team defensive zone often. They have created chances and finally got rewarded in game three with Teddy Blueger’s rough goal as he crashed into the net.