Penguins’ Must Address Struggles Before Playoffs Start

The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a rough start to the month of April. After losing four in a row, the team finally snapped their losing streak with a win over the Nashville Predators. Most recently, the Penguins had back-to-back games with the New York Islanders and managed to win one of those contests to clinch a playoff berth. The Penguins could attribute their recent losses to the absence of several players due to health issues, but with the postseason only a few weeks away they need to find a way to take more shots and win games. 

April Was a Rocky Start for the Penguins

The Penguins opened the month of April with back-to-back losses to the Colorado Avalanche. In the first game on April 2 the Penguins were just not able to keep up with the speed of the Avalanche, losing 3-2. A couple nights later on Tuesday, April 5, the Avalanche once again defeated the Penguins 6-4. 

On Thursday, April 7 the Penguins traveled to New York for their last regular season meeting with the Rangers. Sidney Crosby, John Marino and Radim Zohorna were all unable to play due to illness, and the Penguins got shutout 3-0. On Saturday, April 9, the Penguins fell at home to the Washington Capitals 6-3. 

On Sunday, April 10, Pittsburgh found some life at PPG Paints Arena beating the Nashville Predators 3-2 in overtime. Sidney Crosby and Jason Zucker both had goals in regulation, and Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime. 

Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On Tuesday, April 12, the Penguins lost to the Islanders 5-4 in a shootout, but the two teams met again a couple nights later in Pittsburgh where the Penguins were able to win the game and earn a spot in the playoffs. 

Penguins Need to Find a Good Rhythm

Now that Pittsburgh is officially headed to the playoffs, they need to dissect what has gone wrong for them lately and what has gone right. Tristan Jarry is at the top of their list of concerns. He was in the net for the Penguins four straight losses to begin the month of April, and while he is not fully to blame, he definitely was not at the top of his game. Perhaps the most concerning thing about Jarry right now is his performance against playoff-bound teams. The Rangers will more than likely be the first team the Penguins face in the playoffs and with Igor Shesterkin, arguably the best goalie in the league, in the net for New York, Jarry has to be playing his best game. 

Tristan Jarry Pittsburgh Penguins
Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Casey DeSmith, the Penguins’ backup goalie, continues to make a case for himself. He was given the start against Nashville, making some amazing saves and snapping his team’s four-game losing streak. The Penguins should strongly consider resting Jarry for the remainder of the regular season, and allowing DeSmith to continue to improve his game. 

At 34 years of age, Crosby is playing his best hockey. In the game against the Predators, he scored his 1,400th point in the NHL. He made two shots in that game, including the game winner in overtime. 

Related: Penguins’ Biggest Playoff Concerns Should Be Goaltending & Defense

During the Predators’ game, fans also got to see recent acquisition Rickard Rakell get some ice time with Crosby, and although brief, it was definitely memorable. All three of the Penguins’ goals were scored with Crosby and Rakell on the ice together. Rakell played on the first line with Crosby and Jake Guentzel on Thursday night against the Islanders, and that might be the exact combination the Penguins need as they prepare to head into the postseason. 

Pittsburgh will also need their defense to be firing on all cylinders as they head into the month of May. Lately, that has not been the case for Brian Dumoulin. In the April 12 matchup against the Islanders, he was noticeably off his game as he turned the puck over numerous times in the defensive zone. Dumoulin has also not been skating with the same mobility fans are used to seeing from him. It might be a good idea for Pittsburgh to rest him for the remainder of the regular season. 

The Penguins have their work cut out for them as they prepare to make their 16th straight playoff appearance. They certainly have what it takes, and will be a team to watch in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. 

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