Wednesday, January 11, 2012

GTOPG: Turbulent times, indeed; Pens lose, 5-1

By GTOG Staff

"There he is, just thinking," Penguins announcer Bob Errey observed, as the Root Sports Pittsburgh camera found its way to Mario Lemieux's box.  "How many times have you seen him with his hand on his face, just thinking, where does the team go from here.  Actually, I don't know what he's thinking."  No, Bob, you really don't.  But that's exactly what we're thinking.

OK, that's what he's thinking, too.
The team just lost its fifth game in a row.  The Penguins have plummeted to 8th place in the Eastern Conference, with just one point separating them from Winnipeg and a spot on the golf course during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.  Yikes.  Can and should the Penguins take some action to reverse this downward spiral?  Or is it just a matter of weathering the storm and getting Jordan Staal and Kris Letang, if not Sidney Crosby, back in the lineup for a strong playoff push?  There is no consensus here at GTOG.  We're struggling right along with the team.  We know the Penguins endure some measure of adversity every season.  There's always a losing streak that makes us just uncomfortable enough to question whether or not to stay the course.  And those down times - as long as they happen relatively early in the season - are seldom a reason to take any drastic action.  But this is different.  Nobody has any clue about Crosby.  The team is clearly dispirited.  Dan Bylsma looked like he was about to cry during his post-game press conference.  Where do we go from here?  We set our emotions aside and we analyze how we can make this team better right now.

A way forward, after the jump...

1) We repeat: Don't panic.  Overreacting in the middle of a losing streak is the last thing management should do. 

2) Be honest. Even if you put aside the Crosby injury for a moment, which is very difficult to do, there are a lot of other flaws with this team.  To simply sit back and say, "well, if everyone is healthy, we'll be fine" is not good enough.  Here are some of note:

- The Pens are too soff.  They have the puck a lot, particularly in the first period, but all the puck possession time in the world isn't going to make the other team uncomfortable.  Right now, the Pens can get 40 shots on any given night, but it's the easiest 40 shots the opponent will ever see.  This isn't unlike 2009, when Shero saw a gaping lack of physicality and brought in Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin.

 - One of the big reasons for the soffness?  Matt Cooke has been castrated to the point of being ineffective.  Matt Cooke without crazy pills is Miro Satan in 2009, without the sweet forehand to backhand move.

- A Park-Sullivan-Kennedy line isn't going to cut it, no matter how many injuries there are.

- Arron Asham is playing like he doesn't care, or just doesn't want to get hurt.  Whatever the Pens lost over the years by letting guys like Rupp, Talbot, etc. go, it has not been replaced by Asham.  When he was on the Flyers, he was a pain in the ass for the Pens.  Now that he's on the Pens, he's still a pain in the ass for the Pens.

- Ben Lovejoy is getting worse.  The Penguins have a goals-against average of 2.6 in games where Paul Martin is in the lineup.  The GAA is 2.86 when he's on the shelf.  Yes, he had a rough start, but this is real.  The single biggest thing this team needs aside from its health is stability on the back end.  No one should pretend that we can just plug bodies in on defense without significant repercussions.

3) Call out the crowd. It's no surprise that the fan base's energy level is down given the trauma of the past year.  But the in-game crowd at Consol is abysmal.  Brutal.  The worst.  Fans who pay money can do and say whatever they want -- but so can the players and coaches.  If Dan Bylsma got up and said, "yeah, we suck right now and it has nothing to do with the fans, but we really need your help to get out of this," many people would take that the wrong way.  At GTOG, we'd give him a standing ovation.

4) Make the team better right now.  This lineup is deficient.  We said just this week that the team should be patient and wait 6 weeks before pulling the trigger on anything more than a minor deal.  But then something happened.  Last night happened.  The status quo isn't cutting it.  Sid clearly isn't riding in on a white horse anytime in the foreseeable future.  And this team will almost certainly fall out of the Top 8 in the conference if Pascal Dupuis and Richard Park are forced to play 2nd and 3rd line center for 6 more weeks.  Dustin Jeffrey would help, but even the great DJ can't carry this burden alone.  We have two guys on the NHL roster who Shero could package in exchange for help down the middle without sacrificing too much:  Matt Niskanen and Tyler Kennedy.  Probably a market for the Big Dog, too.  No idea who's available.  But we expect Shero will be working the phones all week to find out.


  1. I don't remember now if this was official or just a "source," but I do remember reading over the summer that the Pens were in an either/or situation with Asham and Rupp, and that they would only offer a contract to one of them. I still haven't forgiven that they chose Asham.

    Especially because Rupp himself came right out and said that if they made an offer, he'd take it. I don't think the Pens would lost him to another team if they had made a lower offer, like in Talbot's case.

  2. The other day I found myself asking if Matt Cooke was on IR, or had been murdered playing roller hockey in the hood in LA. I legitimately didn't even know if he was on our team anymore, and I watch more games than not.

  3. Cooke is playing like a guy who wants to be a healthy scratch.

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