After being shutout 4-0 on Saturday, Crosby and the Pens returned to Pittsburgh to try to redeem themselves in the second half of the back-to-back, and while they made it interesting the second time around, sloppy play and mental lapses cost them in the end, as they fell to the Flyers 4-3.
So after dropping two straight, two questions remain: should we be worried, and should we really care?
The answer to both is, well, not really.
Pittsburgh went into this weekend without the services of winger James Neal or Chris Kunitz, as well as star defenseman Kris Letang and Paul Martin. Add in Pascal Dupuis, who is out for the year following knee surgery, and the Pens were without their three best wingers and two best defenseman.
I’d like to see any team try to have success against a team that’s as hot as Philadelphia is right now given those injuries, regardless of who is still healthy.
Secondly, although the Pens would have certainly enjoyed handing their biggest rivals two straight losses, going full bore twice in two games with a very gritty Flyers squad was something that does not best serve the long term interests of this club.
For one, the Penguins have a 15 point lead over Philly for first in the Metro-terrible division. Not to insinuate that Pittsburgh treated these games like throwaways, but when you have that big of a lead with only a few weeks left to play, making sure every one is healthy and rested for the playoffs is of more of a concern than winning a knock down, drag out fight like games with the Flyers usually are.
It’s the reason we didn’t see Kunitz in either game, even though he took the ice for warmups. The risk was simply way to great for the reward.
Having said that, the Pens again showed that they are still not mature enough to be able to rise above Philadelphia’s antagonistic tactics. Dumb penalties and defensive breakdowns took the Pens off their game before the first period was through, and they couldn’t recover.
They also went 0-4 on the power play and gave up shorthanded goals two days in a row.
Both are problem that only the team can solve, and ones that would best be solved before the post-season starts.