Lack Of Discipline Will Be The Demise Of The Pittsburgh Penguins


The Pittsburgh Penguins forfeited another close game, this time to the Washington Capitals. While Washington is on fire right now, there is something very obvious to me that’s quite concerning. A lack of discipline and the inability to effectively respond to physical, sometimes dirty play is going to kill this team in the postseason.

It’s a trend that has continued for a few years now through two different Management and Coaching regimes. Let’s revisit the 2012 playoffs when the Pittsburgh Penguins faced the Philadelphia Flyers. Going into the playoffs the Pittsburgh Penguins were clear favorites. The series seemed to be one for the ages. There was a ton of scoring, a lot of physicality, and a few instances of really entertaining hockey. However, Pittsburgh tried to answer Philadelphia’s physical play with their own brand of ineffective goonery. This resulted in an ugly series with record amounts of penalty minutes and multiple blowout victories for the Flyers. Plain and simple, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost their composure and Philadelphia stood by and continued to play hockey. It was very similar to Tuesday night’s game against the Capitals

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Alex Ovechkin performed what looked to be a blatant slash to Kris Letang’s calf, sending the Defenseman sliding into the boards at a high rate of speed. Letang was injured for a short period but returned a few shifts later. On the next play Chris Kunitz challenged Ovechkin who promptly declined to drop the gloves. That is where the antics and message sending should have stopped, except for opportunities within the bounds of the game. Should Ovechkin have to pay a price for taking liberties on Letang? Yes. However, not if it means that you begin marching to the penalty box, allowing one of the top power-play units in the league to have multiple opportunities. One of those opportunities included a 5 on 3, which allowed them to score the go-ahead goal.

Let me be very clear, Steve Downie is hurting this team more than he’s helping them at the moment.

Tuesdays game further reinforced my stance that vigilante justice in the NHL is simply asinine. The myriad of penalties last night had no positive effect on the game or the team’s performance. It simply allowed Washington to observe a Pittsburgh implosion and take advantage on the power plays that they were gifted. Mike Johnston, head coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins said it best by essentially stating that you’d like to use that as an opportunity to get your power play on the ice. You want to use that situation to lure them into penalties. But the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t been successful at that in a few years and it’s a huge part of why they haven’t seen the Stanley Cup Finals since 2009.

I’ll also be the first to admit that I love Steve Downie as a hockey player, most of the time. However, he’s been very ineffective as of late and continues to have terrible timing when seeking retribution. We know why he’s on the roster. However, timing is very important, as it’s very easy to put a team in a situation like last night when Downie and Maxim Lapierre were both in the box. The Capitals were handed a 5 on 3 and Joel Ward was able to score the go ahead goal. Let me be very clear, Steve Downie is hurting this team more than he’s helping them at the moment. It’s time to reel him in or ship him out or the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to find themselves in trouble this postseason yet again.

Jan 16, 2015; Uniondale, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Steve Downie (23) wants a penalty called against the New York Islanders as he yells at linesman Derek Nansen (70) during the third period at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Until this team figures out that it doesn’t have anything to prove physically they will continue to struggle. They try to out-muscle teams that are simply more physical than them. They get frustrated too easily and lose composure too quickly. When asked about the antics that occurred last night, Barry Trotz, head coach of the Washington Capitals’, said, “we were trying to win a hockey game”. The Pittsburgh Penguins forget all too often that the end goal is to win a hockey game. Trotz was also quoted in saying that he wasn’t sure what the Penguins were trying to do.   That’s the opinion that most teams have that walk away with a win while Pittsburgh walks away frustrated with a lot of compiled penalty minutes.

Toughness is important in hockey. But the type of toughness this team is trying to display is ineffective and useless. It’s time to start thinking about how they handle in-game adversity and make the necessary adjustments, or we’ll be watching very little springtime hockey in Pittsburgh.