Believe

Just 2 nights ago, the Philadelphia Flyers marched into Pittsburgh with a 13-2-1 record at Consol Energy Center.  Heck, the Philadelphia Flyers Twitter account tweeted this photo below with the caption: “Home sweet (second) home #PHIvsPIT”

And unfortunately, it has been their second home.  The Penguins haven’t beat Philadelphia, regardless of venue, since October 17, 2013 going into this game.  Last time the Penguins won at Consol Energy Center against Philadelphia was March 24th, 2013 in a game that took OT to decide.  Tyler Kennedy had the game-winner in OT.

After the 1st period, the Penguins gave up 2 power play goals to Brayden Schenn and Jake Voracek, and were trailing 2-0 after the first.

Given the history of these 2 teams at Consol, I along with many other fans I would assume, thought this game was over and done.  I was wrong.

The Penguins battled back in the 2nd, and went into the 2nd intermission up 3-2, scoring 2 power play goals from Daley and Kessel, and adding 1 more from Crosby that was a ridiculous shot at a ridiculous angle.  Kessel netted another goal in the 3rd to make it 4-2.  Giroux did respond for the Flyers, but the Penguins held on and won 4-3.

This was not only a great come from behind win, but an absolute HUGE 2 points against a Flyers team that is chasing them in the standings.

This afternoon, the Penguins took on the Canucks despite the snowy conditions here in Pittsburgh.  Once again, the Penguins found themselves down 2-0 at the intermission on 2 goals by Canucks’ forward Jannik Hansen, who had a terrific game, and looked like one of the fastest forwards in the league.

Evgeni Malkin scored a 5 on 3 power play goal in the 2nd period to cut the lead in half, but the Penguins were still trailing 2-1 going into the 3rd.

A few minutes into the 3rd period, Canucks’ forward Bo Horvat fired a shot top corner on Fleury, using Letang as a screen, and gave the Canucks a 3-1 lead with only 14 minutes remaining in the game.  Once again, it did not look so good for the Penguins.

Then, just a minute later, Evgeni Malkin was at it again.  He carried the puck into the slot and was skating right to left.  He tried to get Miller off of his angle, but Miller never gave Malkin a good chance to shoot.  Malkin ended up carrying the puck behind the net, but was able to throw the puck to the front.  Luckily for Malkin, the puck went right off of a Canuck stick and into the net.  It was 3-2 now, and the Penguins had life.

Not much longer the Penguins tied the game 3-3.  Who scored?  Well, who else???

Malkin notched his 10th career hat trick on this goal, and single-handedly brought the Penguins back in this game.  What a great game for Geno.

With only 7 minutes to go, Bryan Rust notched his 2nd of the season, and his 1st since returning from injury, and what a big goal it was.  Kuhnhackl got his first NHL point on the assist.  Although Rust scores the goal, it never would have happened without Eric Fehr.  Fehr screened Miller and never allowed Miller to see the sneaky quick shot that Rust took.  It wasn’t a hard shot, but because Miller never saw it, he did not fall into the butterfly, and the puck went 5-hole and gave the Penguins the lead.

Crosby then scored on an empty net, which ended up being a huge empty net goal.  That being said, Hagelin could have easily scored on the empty net, as he was in a 2 on 1 with Sid going towards an open net, but he passed it and Sid buried it.  Classy play from Hagelin, who has yet to score as a Penguin.  Although, he has been getting his chances and has been playing very well.  I love how much he can create with his speed.

Jannik Hansen scored with 16 seconds remaining to cap a hat trick of his own, but it wasn’t enough to tie the game, and the Penguins held on and won 5-4.

I want to take you back in time for a second…

Can you all remember earlier in the year, when the Penguins could not come backto win games under Johnston?  It seemed, at least to me, that if the other team scored the first goal, the game was over.  The Penguins just could not come back in games.

Now, that is different.

The Penguins just overcame back-to-back 2 goal deficits in the first period.  Although I wish the Penguins wouldn’t continue to give up the first 2 goals in games, it is just visible that this team believes in itself and that they believe in their coach.

Their power play is clicking, their offense is clicking…

They are starting to play Penguins hockey.

So yeah, their record under Sullivan isn’t great yet, but I can tell you from watching the Penguins recently, they are playing with some desire.  They want to win.  They believe that they can win.  I believe they can win.  And you should too.

I feel a win streak coming on…

 

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Believe

Pittsburgh, We Have A Problem

I am really getting to that point of not knowing what to say.  This Penguins team, on paper, sure seems like it is capable of doing some incredible things.  Unfortunately for them, their skilled roster is not showing that skill on the ice.

The Penguins fell 3-0 against Boston, which really felt like a continuation of the series in 2013 where the Penguins scored 2 goals across the span of 4 games.

They had to go with backup Jeff Zatkoff and also played without Bonino who was ill, but those 2 alone are no excuse for the Penguins to put up a goose egg.

So Rutherford wanted an offensive juggernaut.  It didn’t work.  He fires Johnston as hired a new coach.  So far, no luck, but he has only been here 2 games so Sullivan has time to impress me.  Rutherford trades Rob Scuderi for offensive defenseman Trevor Daley who scored 16 goals last year.  Still, no luck.

So what do the Penguins do now?  What CAN they do?  Pittsburgh, we have a problem: our hockey team.

Nothing makes sense.  It just doesn’t.  A team with Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Hornqvist, Letang, Maatta, Daley (just to name a few) should be a top 5 offense.  Period.  I am running out of excuses to give this team.  At this point, there are no excuses.  This team needs to start producing.  How?

First of all, the Penguins need a game-changer.  A guy that can come through clutch.  I think they have a ton of players like that in their roster, but none of them have proven to be a game-changer, except maybe Malkin at times.

Think back to the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2009.  The Flyers were killing the Penguins 3-0, and then Rinaldo gets in a fight with Talbot.  Talbot may have not won the fight, but following Rinaldo pumping up the crowd, Talbot famously “shhhhhh”-ed the Flyers crowd.  The Penguins stormed back to win that game.

I understand that something like this cannot happen every game.  But the Penguins need a guy like Talbot.  They need a game changer.  Whether it is a goal, a fight, a save, whatever…they need someone who can turn a game around for them.

Second of all, they need Sid to produce.  He has no excuse.  Absolutely none.  He has wingers capable of scoring, he plays first line, he plays first power play unit…for him to have no points in 17 of 30 games is absolutely pathetic, especially from Crosby.

Although scoring is down, Crosby needs to play better.  Patrick Kane went on a 26 game scoring streak.  It can happen, it just isn’t as common.  Either way, the Penguins will always be a team that wins or loses based on their stars’ success.  Right now, Crosby is in a rut, and so are the Pens.  He needs to get it together, and fast.

Third of all, the Penguins have to start scoring on the power play.  It is once again inexcusable for the Penguins to have a power play that is not in the top 5.  They actually have a power play in the bottom 5.  Yeah.

So how can they fix it?

First of all, they need to do 2 things: have a shot first mentality and get traffic in front.  It is that easy.  The Penguins had only 2 shots on 3 power plays last night.  That is not good enough.  They need to shoot, which as we all know is something the Penguins are terrible at on the power play.

I could care less how pretty the power play looks when they pass the puck.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  Period.  The Penguins need to focus on scoring.  It doesn’t matter if it is pretty.  Score the garbage goals if necessary.  Just shoot.

Second of all, I have no idea why Sullivan did what he did with the power play.  He moved Malkin to the point (who is not a defenseman, bad idea).  He put Perron in front of the net, rather than either Kunitz or Hornqvist, who are both far better net front presences than Perron.  They put Kunitz in the high slot for whatever reason.  They put Crosby on the left side and then Warsofsky on the right.  It just didn’t make sense.

Maybe there was a method to his madness, but it certainly didn’t work.  Here would be MY first power play unit:

At the point: Trevor Daley.  Even when Letang comes back, he can’t run a power play.  Daley can lug the puck, he can shoot, and he has proven he can score.  Daley should be over Warsofsky every time on the first unit.

Net front: Patric Hornqvist.  This man is one of the most aggravating guys to play against.  How do I know?  Watch how teams react to him going to the front of the net.  He is one of the best in the business: he screens, has great hand-eye, and drives goalies nuts.  Park him in front, and good luck to the goalie, because Hornqvist will not let him see the puck.

Slot: Sidney Crosby.  Putting Crosby in the slot, to me, puts a heavier emphasis on him shooting the puck.  He won’t have the puck on his stick all the time, but then again, the Penguins don’t really want that, because all Sid does is pass any more.  I think this leads to him shooting more, which he needs to do.

Right wall: Evgeni Malkin.  This was easy.  He has a great one-timer and has always had success there.  Keep him there and let him continue to thrive where he has had success.

Left wall: Daniel Sprong.  Yeah, I said it.  So why Sprong?  Well, what is his strength?  His shot.  He has one of the better wrist shots on the entire Penguins team, and he loves to shoot.  So if he is just an asset defensively, why not let him play to his strengths and put him on the power play, where he does not necessarily need to be an asset defensively?  It makes almost too much sense.  To add, Connor Sheary in his first NHL game had almost 2 minutes of power play time, while even Matt Cullen had some time on the 2nd unit.  No Sprong on the power play?!  Unbelievable.

Luckily for the Penguins, they have another shot at Boston tomorrow, this time at Consol Energy Center.  Let’s hope the Penguins start getting some bounces and turn the tide.  They have lost 5 of their last 6.

 

Pittsburgh, We Have A Problem