Pittsburgh Penguins’ Third Period Struggles Continue


The Pittsburgh Penguins have struggled mightily in the third period this season.  One does not need to dive into statistics to prove this —  the video proof is there.  In fact, you need look no further than the Penguins’ loss last night to the Detroit Red Wings.

The Penguins came out hot against Mike Babcock‘s squad, scoring 2 first period goals.  The Red Wings managed to get 1 goal back with five minutes remaining in the first period on a pretty shot from Niklas Kronwall, but the Penguins still had a spark.

Then the Penguins went into the locker room…

The team that came out was not the same team that had possessed the puck so well in the first period and out-shot their opponents 16 to 9 in the same twenty-minute stretch.  No, the team that came out of the visiting locker room allowed the Red Wings to take away the neutral zone, eliminate their zone entries, and force them to play a dump-and-chase style not conducive to Mike Johnston‘s puck possession system.

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The shift in momentum came to a head late in the third period, where the Red Wings cut the Penguins lead to one (Chris Kunitz had managed to score a second period goal on a nice shot from the left circle making the score 3-1), and then tied the game with 39 seconds left.

Everyone in Penguins Nation could see that the writing was on the wall, and when Justin Abdelkader scored the game winning goal in overtime, there was palpable frustration but little surprise.

When looking at the bigger picture, the Penguins’ statistical performance in the third period has been extremely weak this season.  So far, the Penguins have scored three goals in the first period on two separate occasions: first in the season opener against the Ducks, and then again two days later against Toronto.

In six games, the Penguins have scored 11 goals in the first period.  To put that into perspective, that total equals the amount of goals the Penguins have scored in the remaining twelve periods they have played.  In fact, the Penguins have only managed to net 4 goals in the third period in the 2014-2015 season (which leaves 7 goals for their second period total).

The Penguins goal totals for each period this season are an accurate portrayal of what we have seen night in and night out. However, it is hardly time to panic, and as a fan base we should be patient.  In fact, I am not even ringing any alarm bells.

The Penguins’ third period woes may be a telling sign of a team adjusting to a new system, a six game sample size is simply too small to draw any meaningful conclusions. There is plenty to be positive about in the Penguins’ locker room.

The Penguins’ secondary scoring has shown some life in recent games.  Also, despite the Penguins’ loss last night, they were just minutes away from putting the Red Wings away on a strong defensive effort in a close-checking game.  In fact, if you remove the lackluster scoring in the later periods and the late comeback on a great effort by the Red Wings in their home building, the Pens were minutes away from putting together their first complete game of the season.

The first step to solving a problem is identifying and understanding the problem.  If a guy armed with nothing more than a keyboard and a TV  can figure this out, I am positive the Penguins’ world class coaches, training staff, management, and players have an idea of what is wrong and how to fix it.

Maybe we should take a page from Aaron Rodger‘s playbook and R-E-L-A-X…Relax.