Penguins' Recent Scoring Surge Likely to Slow Down, as Planned

James ConleyContributor IIIMarch 28, 2012

Pittsburgh has allowed 15 goals in its last three games, going 1-2-0 in that span.
Pittsburgh has allowed 15 goals in its last three games, going 1-2-0 in that span.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Tuesday night against the Islanders, the Pittsburgh Penguins achieved paradox.

They simultaneously grew equal parts cuter—and uglier—by the shift.

“We gave up big chances, we can’t give those up," Crosby said. "Whether it’s the way we are managing the puck or the mistakes we make in other areas, you just can’t let that happen. We got what we deserved tonight.”

With all their offensive guns finally back on the ice, Pittsburgh has found itself able to finally pry away from strict dump-and-chase hockey and play with a more pass-happy flair.

The talent and freedom to focus on offense has made them the highest scoring team in the league. It has also led them adrift of the strict defensive responsibility that carried the club through more than 14 months of injury-inhibited offense.

The Penguins' captain wasn't the only one to admit Pittsburgh has allowed too many scoring chances against in recent games.

"Yeah, it’s a little bit of a wake up call," James Neal said Wednesday. Neal led the Penguins with two goals and 12 shots in the losing effort. "Every team goes through that. We have that powerful offense and you can make up for little mistakes. For us, we just have to get back to doing the right things."

Pittsburgh's offensive attack, the one responsible for 37 goals over the last eight games, will likely be seeing a correction over the next few games.

As Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Penguins beat writer Josh Yohe tweeted after Tuesday's game, the team is fully aware of the problem: "Almost to a man, Pens admit they are getting greedy for offense and need to be more defensively responsible."

[Good read: Faceoff-Factor's Jesse Marshall has an in-depth looks at the lapses here.]

Injuries have played little part in the defensive problems, though it's an easy excuse. Kris Letang sat out the game against New York, as well as Matt Niskanen and Ben Lovejoy.

With their best defenseman out and two rookies among the top six, Coach Dan Bylsma made no excuses for personnel leading to the poor defensive efforts of late.

"I contribute the injuries or the personnel very little to some of the areas of where we’re managing the puck and the quality of the chances against," Bylsma said. "Brian Strait and Simon (Despres) have proven they can come in, play the right way for us and defend and limit other teams’ opportunities in the time they’ve played."

Both Despres and Strait finished with even ratings on the night. Despres, in particular, looked impressive again. Team-wide puck (mis)management was the real culprit.

"We were a little careless with the puck," Neal said.

Tribune-Review columnist Joe Starkey tweeted that at Wednesday's practice, Bylsma spent a little time on the dry erase board: "Lots of chalk talk at grease board today, Bylsma to team."

The Penguins are a veteran team. Two weeks of offensive indulgence was probably earned after spending more than a calendar year squeezing goals out of a half-healthy roster of dump-and-chasers.

It's a problem that's unlikely to persist.

"We just have to tighten things up," Neal said. "When you’re having success and the pucks are going in and things are going your way, you tend to get away from the things that help you win and make you a good team.

The Pens won't actively try to score fewer goals. But they likely won't be allowing the opposition to match their scoring chances, either.

"For us, it’s just going back to doing the right things and playing with that speed and that physical edge that we know how to play with."

All quotes used with permission unless otherwise attributed. Yell @Slew_James