by Stephanie Lewark
After last night’s frustrating loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs (their third at the CONSOL Energy Center), a few fans are beginning to give up hope. I can genuinely relate to the disappointment of losing, but there are still many things to consider before you decide that you’re ready to jump off the bandwagon.
First let’s concentrate on something a little more specific to last night’s game. To paraphrase Sidney Crosby, it was odd. There are not many games where you outshoot your opponent 25-14 (which happens to be a low SOG total for an entire game to begin with) without it typically resulting in a win. When asked about losing despite outshooting Toronto almost 2-1, Crosby had this to say (from his post-game interview):
“Not often. It does happen. Sometimes that’s the case, the goalie makes a big save or whatever the case is, but we can’t give up 4 goals. It’s going to be tough to win games giving up 4 goals.”
Moving on to the most logical / obvious point, is the fact that we’re only four games into the season which is 82 games long (that’s just under 5% of our total games) and not much to draw from for an accurate assessment of the team.
How about a little perspective (if logic hasn’t yet convinced you)? The current defending Stanley Cup Champions, Chicago Blackhawks, find themselves in a similar situation being winless at home (their record is just as similar, 1-2-1). There is a slight difference in the fact that Chicago’s situation may be more daunting since their losses came during the off-season and are on a much more permanent basis. Due to salary cap issues (I feel like I’m playing a broken record with that issue), they had to give up a few players who had a big role in the team winning the Stanley Cup with Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Antti Niemi signing elsewhere. Currently, Pittsburgh’s losses are only temporary and their future looks a little more optimistic than that. The blueline has taken a devastating blow with two top defenseman, Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek, out of the lineup due to injuries (the top defensive pair has literally been eliminated). The latest news from the organization today being that Michalek will be out for 2 – 4 weeks. These defensemen have already played a combined total of 102 shifts and have 81 minutes of ice time in close to three games. Compare that to the combined stats of the defensemen who played last night and will most likely return to the AHL at some point this season, it can translate into a significant difference and cause some strain throughout all the lines (Deryk Engelland and Andrew Hutchinson have the combined totals of 67 shifts / 50:03 minutes of ice time – only about 65% of Orpik & Michalek’s combined totals).
To further illustrate this perspective allow me to point out the fact that at the end of last season the Washington Capitals earned themselves the first spot in the league with 54 wins (121 points); however, they couldn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs. Being at the top of the league is a huge accomplishment, but it doesn’t compare to the ultimate goal of winning the league’s most coveted trophy.
Will I go as far as to say that the Penguins don’t have things to work on in order to play better and win games? Of course not, but at this point in the season it’s unrealistic to expect so much from any team (even the defending Stanley Cup Champs). Pittsburgh has a lot of time to work on things, adjust, and hopefully find / develop chemistry among the lines especially when a few of the players return after getting healthy (they’ve done it before and won the Stanley Cup and I’m pretty sure they can do it again).