Pittsburgh Penguins: 6-Game Losing Streak by the Numbers

James ConleyContributor IIIJanuary 12, 2012

Pittsburgh Penguins: 6-Game Losing Streak by the Numbers

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    The Penguins have lost six straight. They can't score. Players are dropping left and right.

    The only thing that's gone their way over the last two weeks is that James Neal's injury isn't as bad as initially thought.

    Never mind seeing someone return from IR.

    The latest loss, a 1-0 shutout at the hands of the middling Washington Capitals, proved that even when the Penguins hold an opponent to a single goal, their opponents can probably hold the Pens to none.

    At times, the effort wasn't there. When there was effort, there was no execution. And the bad luck has come in waves.

    Phantom penalties have been assessed. Calls have been blown (are you kidding me, Milan Michalek's skate?). Nothing is going right for this team. Such is the nature of an NHL season.

    How bad is it? The Penguins haven't suffered such a losing streak since Sidney Crosby's rookie season (2005-06), when they dropped 10 straight.

    Unless these numbers change in a hurry, the Pens might find themselves approaching that mark once again.


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    That's the Penguins record since December 29, 2011. Pittsburgh has dropped six straight, each in regulation, to the Flyers, Rangers, Devils (twice), Capitals and Senators.

    Each of those teams is currently in playoff position. Each is an Eastern Conference opponent. Four of the losses have come to division foes.

    The Penguins are now 14-16-1 in the East, 5-6-0 in the Atlantic and 2-6-0 against division opponents not named the Islanders.

    With the last 12 standings points off the table, the Penguins have fallen 14 points behind the league-best Rangers in the Atlantic, just one month after being near the top of the NHL in total points.


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    The Pens have been outscored 19-6 over their current slide.

    Only once have they allowed fewer than three goals to an opponent (a game in which they were shut out). Twice, they allowed more than three goals against.

    The Penguins still maintain a plus-12 goal differential, though that number hovered north of 30 for most of the season.

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    In three of the six losses, the Penguins scored the first goal.

    Scoring first is vitally important in hockey, where a lead determines whether a team plays a defensively sound scheme or is forced to take risks defensively in a push to even the score.

    It's even more important for a team which has lost so many games and players to injury, and whose collective psyche is almost certainly fragile.

    The Pens opened the scoring against the Flyers, Devils (Jan 7) and Rangers, but in each game relinquished the lead in a terrible second period.

    In each of the six losses, the Penguins trailed entering the third period.

    Comebacks are difficult in the NHL, but surrendering a lead after scoring first can seem insurmountable to a team missing so much of its offense.


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    The Penguins have outshot their opponents 196-136 in their last six contests.

    Sixty more shots on goal have translated to 13 fewer goals scored. For comparison's sake, the Penguins' shooting percentage over those games is a miniscule .031 percent, while opponents are scoring on .140 percent of their chances.

    The culprit? The Pens are devolving into a perimeter shooting team lacking the skill to generate good scoring chances from high-percentage areas.

    The Pens haven't been able to put a man into the slot since Jordan Staal went down with a knee injury. The Malkin line is the last legitimate scoring threat the Penguins possess, but teams are keying their best defensive lines against them on every shift.

    In general, opponents aren't respecting the Penguins' ability to score from the perimeter (they lack an overpowering slap shot from their blue line) and are taking away the slot.

    The response? The Penguins have taken far more (and far worse) shots than their opponents, a symptom common to last season when they lost their best forwards to injury.


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    Only one Penguins player, Evgeni Malkin, has recorded more than one goal over the last six games. He scored against Ottawa and New Jersey, the last two goals the Pens have recorded.

    Ben Lovejoy, Tyler Kennedy, Jordan Staal (IR) and Chris Kunitz are responsible for the other four.

    Other than Malkin, Kennedy (1G, 1A) is the only player to record more than one point during the slide.


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    That's how many Penguins have been committed to injured reserve during the streak.

    Jordan Staal suffered a torn MCL during the Rangers game in a knee-on-knee collision with former Penguin Mike Rupp. Staal is expected to miss 4-6 weeks and leaves the Crosby-less Penguins dangerously thin down the middle.

    Staal has 15 goals this season.

    Simon Despres, on recall to fill in for a sick Paul Martin, injured his knee in the 5-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

    Despres missed a flying check attempt and put his knee into the boards. He is expected to miss several weeks and is one of three minor league defensemen to be placed on IR after getting hurt with Pittsburgh.

    Brian Strait (elbow) and Robert Bortuzzo (concussion) also spent time on the IR during call-ups.

    Center Dustin Jeffrey (knee) returned Wednesday against the Capitals, bringing the number of current Penguins on LTIR to four.

1, 2, 3

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    As with everything else, special teams have gone south.

    - One power play goal scored

    - Two shorthanded goals against

    - Three power-play goals surrendered

    The Pens have only gone to the man-advantage 14 times in the six losses while facing 19 shorthanded situations.

    In their last two contests, the Penguins have drawn only one power play—due as much to an inability to sustain offensive zone pressure as some horrid, inexplicable non-calls.

    The Pens have dropped to 10th in power-play percentage (18.9 percent) but still maintain the league's fourth-ranked penalty kill (87.0 percent).


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    Collectively, that's what all these numbers add up to: nothing.

    There are 82 games in an NHL campaign. Six losses hurt, but .0731 percent of the season does not a season make.

    Hockey has inevitable ebbs and flows, and right now the Penguins are experiencing the worst of the rollercoaster ride.

    Still, the year's far from over. The 2010 Flyers ranked 15th in the Eastern Conference in the same season they reached the finals versus Chicago. The 2009 Penguins ranked 10th in the East and made a mid-February coaching change en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

    Players will (probably) heal and the team is too good not to get back on track. Missing the playoffs is a possibility given the tightness of the East and the Penguins might only be the third-best team in the conference when healthy.

    Still, plenty of hockey remains to be played.