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Saturday, January 3, 2009

FLA Panthers Eat Flightless Birds

Today's afternoon tilt between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers was supposed to be an opportunity for the faltering Penguins to find their wings again and get their game back in order.

But the exact opposite was realized when the Panthers routed the Pens 6-1 at Mellon Arena in downtown Pittsburgh. The Penguins, losing their 5th straight game at home, have dropped 10 of their last 14 games and are desperately searching for answers.

Rumors swirl on the tongues of analysts and on the intertubes about trades...about replacing coach Michael Therrien...but for the Penguins themselves the answer is more simple, albeit elusive: Find A Way.

The Penguins core is relatively the same team that advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals last year. In fact, the anticipated Stanley Cup Hangover appears to have eluded Detroit and instead found its way to the Igloo so you can imagine the level of frustration that must be felt in the Pens' locker room. The players believe it's time for an extra workout in the weight room and a little extra time spent on the ice at practice.

But if the organization were to explore trade options to jump start a recovery to this season, they cannot afford to wait for the trade deadline or for grabbing the caliber of player they did last year in Marion Hossa. If a trade is what it will take, they will need to work the phones now. Oft denied interest in the available Brendan Shanahan may be worth rethinking...

Pittsburgh had such an excellent start to the season (12-4-3) it surprised many they were able to do so without their top two defensemen, Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney. While Whitney is back in action, Gonchar has just begun skating in practice again (no contact) and is still estimated to be a month out from playing. But it's not so much the D plaguing the Pens as it is the Box...the Penalty Box to be precise and how much time the Penguins are spending there of late.

Frustration in losing leads to bad penalties and time spent in the box is time not spent on the ice contributing to scoring. Take today's game for example. As exciting as it is to see Sydney Crosby take his second career fighting major, it guarantees the opposition the Kid Captain won't be on the ice for 5 minutes. In fact, Syd took a total of 21 PIMs today (his career high). Fight or Flight, Right?

The Pens are too good of a team to not find a way out of this funk...the question is how soon can they find the path. With Buffalo's win against the super-dooper Bruins today, they fall to 9th in the East and just out of playoff contention. OGA has already called the Penguins IN per the On Goal Analysis Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) and we stick to the call. The season is not quite half over and there is plenty of hockey to be played. The question is whether the team (as it exists today) will find the means or if a shakeup is required to jolt the tuxedoed birds back into flight.

And just in case you missed it, here's Syd trying a different tactic on the faceoff dot...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Boy, just when I was going to declare this "The Year Without a Stanley Cup Hangover"...I'm sure the Pens will find a way to turn things around - they're too talented to keep this up much longer. Good post, O Feverish Pill!