Pittsburgh Penguins: Is this Team Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

From game to game, period to period one wonders which PIttsburgh Penguins team will step out on the ice.

Is it the Pittsburgh Penguins that play a solid sixty-minutes against the Capitals down a defenseman or will it be the Pittsburgh Penguins that lead the league in giving up two-goal leads this season with eight?

“With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose partial discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two.” – Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Are the Penguins doomed to find themselves on the playoff bubble the rest of the season or can they turn things around with a few fixes that could help put them on the steadier ground?

The Dr. Jekyll Penguins

Losing a steady defenseman like Jamie Oleksiak early in a game against their Metropolitan Division-leading rivals should’ve spelled doom for a Penguins team short on defensive prowess, but alas, they prevailed.

Getting contributions (and last second saves) from Marcus Pettersson and more than adequate performances from Maatta and even Jack Johnson, the Dr. Jekyll Penguins managed to hang on against the speedy Capitals, despite several offensive onslaughts led by Ovechkin, taking shot after shot on net in what must’ve felt to Matt Murray like an endless barrage of rushes.

The Mr. Hyde Penguins

Facing a team that hadn’t won in eight games, the Penguins should’ve easily handled the Chicago Blackhawks when they faced them last week. Instead, and despite a hat-trick from forward Bryan Rust, the Penguins fell to the Blackhawks with a score of 6-3.

Coming into the game, the Penguins had been 6-2-2 in their previous 10 games, but continued showing the inconsistency that has marked this team from the beginning of this season. While injuries to key players like Matt Murray, Kris Letang, and Justin Schultz have presented a challenge to the team this year, there’s no excuse for lacking jump and enthusiasm at this point in the season.

The Penguins got beat up and down the ice by the Blackhawks, losing puck battle after puck battle, turning over the puck, and letting the opponent walk through the defense on several occasions.

The Dr. Jekyll Penguins

Following the embarrassing loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Penguins bounced back with two straight sixty minute game performances versus the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings.

While neither of these teams are versions of themselves that fans around the league have come to love to hate, they’re still tough teams to get points against and the Penguins did so for the most part without the services of their top defenseman, Kris Letang.

For all that was lacking in the previous game, the Pittsburgh Penguins showed up with energy to spare, racing to the corners and winning battles all over the ice, while playing a smarter defensive game. Although they blew a two goal lead in each of these games, they managed to persevere and come out on top.

The Mr. Hyde Penguins

Any time an NHL team takes a 2-0 lead, it’s generally reason to be optimistic. That is not the case with this year’s Penguins squad. Going up on Anaheim two goals just meant that when Anaheim rattled off four straight goals, the Penguins would be sent packing without anything to show for that lead. After getting the 2nd goal, the Penguins appeared to lose the will to continue fighting and playing tight and the Ducks noticed.

Expect the Unexpected

Every time they step onto the ice this season, fans will be wondering which Penguins team will show up. The Penguins have shown they can put in the effort and win out tough games against good teams, but have also shown they can completely put on a lackadaisical performance with lackluster skating and non-existent team defense.

Next: Jack Johnson - Defensive or Divisive?

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And when they do show up, at least early on, one cannot be sure that they will continue to display that level of effort for the entire game.

 

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