A week ago many Pittsburgh Penguins fans, myself included, were beginning to grow concerned with the teams lack of consistency and intensity, especially in the goal-scoring department.
After all, Pittsburgh was coming off a mind numbing three-game stretch that saw them lose 5-1 at home to the Florida Panthers, as well as a tilts with Washington and lowly Calgary. Pittsburgh probably deserved to lose each game, but got managed to skate by and sneak out a victory by the skin of their teeth. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were more or less absent from the score sheet during that stretch.
Then for two games, it appeared that whatever offensive woes the Pens were experiencing had all but evaporated. Crosby and Malkin had returned from their mini-slumps, and Pittsburgh’s offense had returned to it’s former potency (4th overall).
A squad that sputtered and struggled to put more than one past the Panthers and score twice on the basement-dwelling Flames suddenly exploded for 11 goals in two games against the Canadiens and Islanders.
Sid and Geno were everywhere, racking up points in their 6-5 victory against the Islanders as wells their 5-1 drubbing of the Canadiens at home. The top two lines were flying and creating offense at a level that neither team could handle.
Then they traveled to Dallas to take on the Stars, where they looked more like the Penguins who played the Panthers and not the one who played the Canadiens. They we’re shut out 3-0 for only the third time this season.
It’s a long season. obviously, you can’t expect a team to play at an elite level all 82 games, however it is a little alarming that almost every time the Penguins lose, its usually due to the top two lines getting shut down and the bottom two not being able to pick up any of their slack.
Granted it doesn’t happen often, but when the Crosby and Malkin lines don’t produce, Pittsburgh is more or less dead in the water. With the exception of Brandon Sutter’s empty netter at the end of the Montreal game, Pittsburgh has not gotten goal out of their bottom six with Crosby or Malkin on the ice since December 19th, when it Sutter scored against the Wild.
The formula for beating the Penguins has become frightningly simple: shut down the top two lines. Without the top six contributing, any quality scoring chances Pittsburgh gets will be few and far between.
Granted, preventing two of the best offensive talents in the NHL from scoring is a hard task in and of itself, but it’s not impossible. Pretty much any team that’s beaten the Penguins this season can attest to that fact it can be done.
I could type till my fingers bleed about lack of depth and the need to re-up on it at the trade deadline, but it’s already been done. It’s been an issue not just this season, but in years past as well, and it simply isn’t join t change until serious personal changes are made.