Pittsburgh Penguins: If You’re Not First You’re Last

Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

“If you’re Not First, You’re Last”.  It’s a great quote from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and very appropriate, given where the Pittsburgh Penguins are in the Standings at this moment.  Last place in the Metropolitan Division is not where any of us would have predicted the Penguins would be, given the talent on this hockey team and especially how the Penguins looked at the end of last season.

Remember last year?  That was the year no fans were allowed to enter into a building to watch a hockey game live.  Last year, remember the Pittsburgh Penguins were #1 in their Division and only a couple of overtime bounces (“going the other way”), from making it into the Second Round of the Playoffs …and beyond.

Oh my, how times have changed…for the worse.  We are in a new year folks and what appears to be light years away from last season (on the surface anyway).

As it stands right now, the Pens are last.  With a record of 4-3-4 for 12 Points, the Pens are tied for 8th or last in the Metropolitan Division.  They are tied for 13th in the Eastern Conference and tied for 21st Overall in the NHL.  That is not good. That is not Pittsburgh Penguins Hockey.

Let’s have a look at the Penguins over the first 11 games of the season and compare them to where the Penguins ended last season.  A review of some key stats that may uncover why the Pens seem to be underachieving to date.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have their work cut out for them

The first glaring stat, as mentioned, their record.  The Penguins are last in their Division.

Last year, the Pittsburgh Penguins ended up Winning their Division.

Now, I would not have bet on the Penguins leading the League or even their Division at this point in time.  However, I would have predicted the Pens picking up around 7 W’s at this point in the season.  Those predicted 7 wins would have netted the Pens 14 points, which would leave them in a tie for Fourth Place in the Division and right in the mix.

Now granted, we knew the Hurricanes were going to be good.  We know the Capitals are always tough with Ovie in the line up.  We also knew that the New York Rangers were going to be an improved squad this year.  But would you have placed money on NYR being second in the Division?  I don’t think so.

The longest losing streak the Pens endured last year was two games.  Four times last season, the Pens broke a two-game losing skid with a must needed win.  This season the Pens already own a three-game skid.  They must stop the bleeding at two games max, going forward.

Remember, three of the Pens losses were in a shootout and the other was in overtime.  Flip the script in these overtime games and we are talking about 8 wins, 16 points and right in the mix, one point out of second.  An entirely different narrative.

The next little nugget to consider is…

As of Game 11, the Penguins are 16th overall in the NHL in Goals For, with 35.

The Penguins ended last year, second overall in the NHL in Goals For.

We all knew the Penguins, going into this season, were going to be a little shorthanded in the goal scoring department.  However, given the rash of injuries and with Covid -19 placing a number of players on the IR, it seems to have had an affect on overall team scoring.  I would suspect team chemistry and line chemistry is still at play here and will solve itself over a few more games.

And don’t forget about…

The Penguins are 14th overall in the NHL with a .929 Save %.

The Penguins ended last year, third overall in the NHL with a .912 Save %.

Tristan Jarry has been average at best to start the season.  It’s debatable if he is just taking time to round out into game shape from the offseason or if he is still getting used to his Defensemen.  We measure Goalies by, Save Percentage, Goals Against and Wins but understand, these stats are really made up, from the combined efforts of Team Defense.

Oh, and one last thing…

The Penguins are 29th overall in the NHL with a 10.8% Power Play percentage.

The Penguins ended last year, fourth overall in the NHL with a 23.1% Power Play percentage.

Starting the year without the Penguin Star Power duo (Crosby, Malkin, both injured), has not helped the Power Play what so ever.  However, the rest of the troops have performed just terrible with the man advantage.  I’m not sure if it’s the players or the scheme just yet (that is another topic to dissect for another time).  Regardless, this has to improve going forward.

My View from the Cheap Seats

The Pens have some work to do, in order to climb out of the basement.  As Ricky Bobby says, “If You’re Not First, You’re Last”.  Of course, we all know that you can be second, third, fourth, hey, you can even be fifth.  Which would be a great view compared to the one we see in front of us today.

In the “real world”, Penguins out in the wild, are known to have thick skin, be self disciplined, show determination and have the will to live with and overcome many of life’s challenges that are thrust upon them. This Penguins Hockey Team, with what they have experienced over their last 11 games, must show that same determination and resilience going forward.

Yinzer Rules:

1.       We Are Family – support and stay the course.

2.      It’s All About Defense – commit to it and we will excel.

Quote of the Day:

”How would you like a job where, every time you make a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo?”

—Jacques Plante