Pittsburgh Penguins: Brawl Against Flyers Is Exactly What Team Needs

Andre Khatchaturian@AndreKhatchCorrespondent IIIApril 1, 2012

UNIONDALE, NY - MARCH 29:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on March 29, 2012 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 5-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins aren't playing the way a team that's heading into the playoffs should be playing.

They've lost three of their last four games and four of their last six. 

The goals have been there. The Penguins haven't scored fewer than three goals in any of those games, but where is the defense?

The Penguins continue to put up shots on goal against opponents, but they can't seem to find a way to prevent goals from getting in.

The Penguins outshot Philadelphia 47-26 today but still lost the game. A few days ago, they outshot the New York Islanders 54-25 and couldn't get the "W."

We've seen Marc-Andre Fleury even give up some cheesy, fluky goals recently.

This leads one to think whether the Penguins' heads are in the game. It seems like ever since they clinched, they haven't been showing the same effort and they've been guilty of complacency—especially on defense.

During their 11-game winning streak, the Pens were outshot in five of the 11 wins, but they won all of them. This is because Fleury was on top of his game and the defense was playing at a high level. 

It may be true that Kris Letang was absent because of a lower-body injury the past few games, but he's back now and the Penguins shouldn't be using that as an excuse.

The Penguins defense needs to be playing with more energy if the team is going to go far. This doesn't only apply to the six defensemen that play on the blue line. Every Penguin needs to be more alert, aggressive and physical on defense.

When a team isn't following those criteria on the defensive side of the ice, then there are questions regarding effort and whether a team is being complacent. This is why Sunday afternoon's brawl is exactly what the Penguins need to ignite them for the last three games of the regular season and the playoffs.

The Pens can't be losing to teams like the Islanders twice, especially at this stage of the season. They need to be skating hard on each shift as if it's their last and they have to play with the same determination that they did in the last few minutes of Sunday's game.

If they had that same hatred towards the Flyers for the entire 60 minutes, there is no way the Flyers would've been able to win.

It really looks like that after beating the Rangers, Flyers, Devils and Bruins on a regular basis in March and late February, the Penguins took their foot off the gas pedal a little bit.

That can't happen.

Sunday's loss and the brawl was a great wake-up call that the team needed. They're not going to be messing around nonchalantly anymore. 

Expect this team to play as if they were shot out of a cannon on Tuesday night against Boston.