The Penguins rumbled to a 2-0 start in this truncated season, defeating the rival Flyers and rival Rangers in their respective buildings in consecutive days. Since, the Penguins have stumbled with three losses in their last four games. Superstars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and James Neal have been careless with the puck, as they have turned the puck over habitually. The team has failed to get sufficient production from the top six defensemen. Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, and Matt Niskenen have essentially been logging all the minutes on the ice. Coach Bylsma juggled his top six with Simon Despres and Ben Lovejoy, who both have made mistakes.
The worst of all: the immensely talented Power Play unit has struggled of late. Tuesday night against the Islanders, the previously lethal Penguins’ 5-to-4 man advantage recorded a mere three shots in nine minutes on the Power Play. In this truncated season where teams had just a week to prepare for the season, teams need to keep it simple offensively. The Penguins have been forcing plays with their skill. After the Penguins’ scrimmage on Wednesday night before the season opener on Saturday, Bylsma said the following to his coaching staff while watching film of the scrimmage, “If this scrimmage has taught us anything, it’s that if you think you’re gonna make passes like you did in game 75 last year… you’re not.” They need to revert to the style of hockey they began to play when Dan Byslma became the coach of the team deep into the 2008-2009 campaign: dump the puck in and grind the opponent down. Byslma has the right approach, but his message clearly has not been adequately transferred to his team.
The 4-1 loss to the Islanders brought about more questions. During Dan Bylsma’s post-game press conference, he was asked if his team displayed full effort. Byslma nodded in agreement that his team lacked energy on the ice, and proceeded to say it was not where it needs to be or where it typically is.
It is not time to panic, but the Penguins need to fix a lot of issues if they want to be a serious contender for the Stanley Cup this season.