The Penguins lost their 6th game in a row last night, this time at the hands of the Washington Capitals by a score of 1-0.
It was a physical game filled with lots of hits:
79 to the body, according to the official stats
several punches landed between Craig Adams and Matt Hendricks
a few pucks off of goal posts
one puck that managed to hit the back of either net
Perhaps nothing exemplifies better how much different these two teams are now, compared to their 7 game playoff series a few years back, than this game does.
While both coaches must have been happy about their goalies and the performance of their teams from a defensive perspective, neither is probably feeling very comfortable about their ability to score goals at this point in time.
From the Penguins side of things, it was a lot more of the SAME things we have grown accustomed to seeing in the past couple of weeks during the 6 game losing streak:
Outshoot the competition (30-21)
Score 2 goals or less (in this case ZERO)
In fact, as painful as it might be for fans of the team to look at, here are the specifics from each of the 6 games during the current spiral to 9th place in the conference:
Until I did the calculations, I wasn't even aware that it was this bad for the Penguins over this stretch of games. Sure, the results tell the story, but to have a shooting percentage of 3, while your opponents are scoring at 14%...and you are out shooting them by about 10 shots per game...OUCH!
This streak is eerily similar to what we saw last year when the team struggled - especially during the playoff series loss to the Lightning. The Penguins can generate shots...but they can't seem to score goals.
Some of that is attributed to the goalie at the other end...but unlike some who think we just happen to run into these tremendous goalie performances (night after night) and there's nothing we can do about it, I happen to think it's just as much a result of our inability to generate good scoring chances or to get second and third shots on goal.
When the team struggles...because of missing players...or not getting to their game...or simply not playing with the confidence needed to win...they still manage to do a lot of things they are supposed to do...but scoring goals isn't one them.
While this game clearly wasn't as bad as what we witnessed the other night against the Senators, it did continue the losing streak and it leaves the Penguins with lots of questions left unanswered.
Perhaps the biggest question, which will now undoubtedly become center stage, is whether or not Sidney Crosby will be able to play again this season.
Crosby was seen at last night's contest and it was announced that he will begin skating again with the team. It was also announced that Crosby would address the media in the near future to update everybody on his status.
While I am inclined to think this is good news...any progress toward a return should be thought of that way, right? -- I am reluctant to put too much HOPE into a (quick) return of the captain - at least based on the way things played out last year and this concerning his concussion problems.
Until this recent drop in the standings, it was my belief that as long as the Penguins were treading water, the best case scenario for when we would see Crosby in a game was AFTER the trade deadline. To me, it just didn't make any sense, as long as the team could win it's share of games, to bring him back any sooner than that (if it was even possible).
As was mentioned in another article recently, the uncertainty of Crosby's concussion recovery makes it difficult for GM Ray Shero to determine what to do to improve his team. Now that they have fallen out of the playoff picture, at least for the time being, it seems that maybe Crosby and the Pens have decided they need to know sooner rather than later, whether or not Crosby can play again this season.
Now I anticipate we'll see Crosby make a concerted effort to get back on the ice (in a game) as quickly as possible. And if that effort causes symptoms to re-appear or worsen, I suspect the Penguins will simply shut him down for the season, and use whatever money his absence provides to try and bolster the team's offense.
In my mind, it's the only logical way to move forward, given their current place in the standings and this streak which has to end soon.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading...