The Pittsburgh Penguins lost on several fronts tonight when they were soundly beaten by the New York Islanders.
This is the same Islanders team that the Pens beat easily on Feb. 2. This is the same Islanders team who are 14th out of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference.
If they are losing by six to the Islanders, how are they ever going to beat Philadelphia, or Tampa, or Washington when the games really start to count?
I hate to say I told you so, but if you read the article I posted earlier in the week, you would see that I may have seen this coming.
Playing without their two best players, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Wilkes-Barre call-ups showed that they aren't afraid to get physical with their opponents.
Of course, all that fighting left little energy for scoring goals or playing defense. At times, the game looked like a highlight reel of people auditioning for the part of Happy Gilmore: Lots of fighting, precious little skating.
The Penguins took 166 penalty minutes, a number that will not improve on their league-lead as the most penalized team in the NHL. Only Alex Goligoski, Paul Martin, Jordan Stall, Eric Tangradi, and Nick Johnson didn't spend any time in the sin bin.
That's five guys out of a starting lineup of 18 skaters. Even goaltender Brent Johnson managed to get a fighting penalty.
Between the two teams, 10 players were ejected.
The game mercifully ended before the Pens could run out of players. Surely, suspensions will be handed out by the NHL, especially to Pens RW Eric Godard, who left the bench to fight.
The amazing part wasn't that Brent Johnson let seven of 27 shots get by him (for a paltry .741 save percentage). The amazing part is that he actually managed to stop 20 shots. It wasn't any better when Marc—Andre Fleury was in the game. He only managed to stop seven of nine shots (.778 save percentage).
Another unsettling fact about this very troubling game is that not one skater for the Pens had a plus/minus ratio of zero or higher. The Islanders, on the other hand, had every one of their skaters above zero. Plus/minus is used to show how often a player is on the ice when a goal is scored, either for, or against, your team (a negative number, as it sounds, is not good).
It's hard to put a positive spin on a game like this, but if pressed to do so, I could say that at least the Pens out-shot the Islanders, 38-36.
At a time when the Penguins need to just keep their heads above water until they get their superstar back, this is exactly what they did not need.
It would be foolish not to think that the rest of the league now knows that the Penguins can be taken out of their game—score a couple early goals, play defense, and get a little physical, and the men in black and gold will beat themselves.
Dan Bylsma needs to get control of this team. He needs to make them understand that there is such a thing as a good penalty and a bad penalty. Right now, the Penguins are taking far too many of the bad kind.
If a loss to a bad team by two field goals doesn't drive the point home, maybe sitting at home watching hockey instead of playing it when the middle of April rolls around will be exactly what they deserve.
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