Saturday, January 11, 2014

Recap: Pens blow late lead in Edmonton; lose 4-3

By Finesse (follow me on Twitter)

That Craig Adams failed to get the puck out of the zone on an easy clearing attempt in overtime should not be what leaves a bad taste in your mouth from this game.  The Pens have the #2 penalty kill in the entire league, and Craig Adams leads the team in PK minutes.  The ice was bad, Adams was exhausted, and he made a horrible play -- it's magnified by the fact that he's having a pretty quiet season, but even if he were playing like John Madden in the early 2000s, that stuff happens.  We're over it.  If Adams gets the puck out, the Pens kill the penalty, and then James Neal or Chris Kunitz scores the OT winner, it gives the Pens a standings point they don't really need.  That's about it.

What should be the lasting concern from this game, and basically every game this season (with particular emphasis on the games since Pascal Dupuis was injured), is that the Pens are playing an 18-man sport with 12 guys.  The Crosby and Malkin lines are generating at least 2 or 3 goals per game and the team's strategy is essentially to hope for those 2 or 3 goals, and then another goal or two from those guys on the power play.  If the Pens were a clothes dryer, the bottom 6 would be the lint screen that no one ever cleans ... the more games the Pens play, the more crap that accumulates in there, until at some point the clothes (the team) just spins and spins and spins and nothing is happening.  That analogy needs extensive work, but you get the point.

Compounding the lack of diversity on the score sheet is this: the Pens have given up 3 or more goals in 8 of their past 11 games.  Of course, the Pens have only lost 3 games in regulation since Thanksgiving, so it's not panic time.  And it's entirely possible that given the standings and the upcoming Olympics, this is the least meaningful January in Pens regular season history.  But if you've watched this team regularly over the past several years, there's always a palpable sense of when the team is regressing defensively.  We're not quite there yet, but the hairs on our necks are standing up a little.

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