The Penguins Are the Defending Eastern Conference Champions?

KP Wee@kpwee1Senior Writer IOctober 11, 2008

Not sure what happened to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night, but being outshot by a 3-1 margin? On home ice at the Mellon Arena? Come on.

The visiting New Jersey Devils, playing for the second consecutive night, eked out a 2-1 OT victory against the Penguins when Zach Parise's wrist shot beat Marc-Andre Fleury with 37.6 seconds left.

Pittsburgh was outshot 49-15, and was ahead 1-0, until Patrik Elias tied it with 2:29 remaining in regulation.

Fleury kept the Penguins in it for much of the night, as his mates hung him out to dry with the shot clock showing these alarming numbers in the third period: New Jersey 20, Pittsburgh 2. In fact, over the last two periods in regulation, the Devils had a 35-6 edge in shots.

The Penguins, who are one of the contenders for the Stanley Cup in the 2008-09 season, can't put these kinds of performances out on the ice if they want to be considered among the elite in the league.

Do you blame the fact that the Penguins started this season playing a pair of games in Sweden? Could that be the reason why the defending Eastern Conference champs are struggling?

But then, if you look at the New York Rangers, the Blueshirts are doing just fine, thank you. If you recall, the Rangers had opened their season with two contests of their own against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Prague.

Yet the Rangers are perfect, owning a 4-0-0 record after returning to North America and beating the Chicago Blackhawks, and Philadelphia Flyers the last two nights.

So, no excuse for the Penguins regarding starting the year in Europe.

It couldn't possibly be the letdown from any pre-game celebration, as there was no banner raising ceremony prior to the Pittsburgh-New Jersey contest. No hangovers to speak of, since the Penguins didn't win the Cup last year.

Whatever the case is, there is no excuse for the Penguins to struggle. They'll have two days to prepare for their next game, a date at home with the Philadelphia Flyers—the team they knocked out in the Conference Finals last spring.

Pittsburgh will then follow that up with two more home games (vs. the Capitals and Maple Leafs) before playing in Boston on Monday, Oct. 20.

Let's not look too far ahead, though.

When the Flyers do visit Mellon Arena Tuesday evening, they will have played the previous night against the Montreal Canadiens, while the Pens will have been well rested.

Will Pittsburgh come out with a bigger effort against a team playing its third game in four nights? We shall see.


**Not only does KP Wee write for Bleacher Report, he’s also a published author. Check out his fiction novel, “Showing Their Scales,” on and**