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Penguins continue to dig a deeper hole

November 25, 2023, 4:08 AM ET [106 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
There’s no getting around it. This was a bad loss. The kind of loss that makes a team go from chasing a playoff spot to spinning their tires. It’s technically still November, but the season is edging closer to being unsalvageable. The Penguins need to beat the teams below them in the standings and they definitely need to do so when they are going into a third period up 2-0. You can’t lose in regulation. They did. They are now 13th overall in the Eastern Conference.



I decided to go to the game so I missed the news about the whole power play shakeup the team went with tonight. I loathe it. You couldn’t come up with a more derpy solution than separating Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. The solution was to have Radim Zohorna and Alex Nylander on the same power play? Vinnie Hinostroza had more power play time than Evgeni Malkin tonight. It is such a weird self-own to deploy things like this. It is imperative this coaching staff figures out answers to the power play that include their best personnel. If they can’t then they aren’t up for the job. It really is that simple.

I have always maintained, and still do, that Mike Sullivan is a good head coach. However, we’re on four years of pretty meh results. Roster construction has certainly hurt him, but so has his lack of creativity in coming up with solutions. There’s never any line juggling mid-game. I mentioned in the last blog to find ways to get Crosby and Malkin together at 5v5. He did the opposite by splitting them even on the power play. There was a Sabres icing at the end of the period. There were 25.9 seconds left. The fourth line had just come off the ice. A freebie if there ever was one to put Crosby, Malkin, Guentzel, and Karlsson out there. These things add up and when a team is desperate like the Penguins are you’d think you’d want to fire all of your shots.

I thought Alex Nedeljkovic did another nice job in net. His .913 tonight should have been plenty enough for the team to earn some standings points. He also proved that the Penguins goaltenders are allowed to make a big save on a breakaway.

Penguins also got a bottom six goal on a great shot from Lars Eller. This too was wasted. Goaltending and depth scoring were the issues heading into the season and tonight things went well on that front.

There is nothing about Ryan Grave’s game that speaks to being a 4.5M player. He’s just kinda there and I don’t think kinda there is a standard the Penguins can be throwing 4.5M at. I made a point to try and find things to latch onto on what could justify the cost and came up empty. I realize this is one game, but other than shooting the puck hard I haven’t seen much in the other games so far this season either. Dubas inherited the Carter contract. He’s on the hook for the Graves one.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Marcus Pettersson. He’s a much better watch in person than he is on TV. You really see the work he puts in on the ice and how economical and effective he is. His gap control combined with his poke checking and stick work is really good. He moves the puck well. It is insane Ron Hextall was trying to move him to free up cap space. This guy is set it and forget it. He does all the things the good version of Brian Dumoulin did, but he’s lighter on his feet.

Kris Letang on a shift-to-shift basis was really good tonight. Led all Penguins in CF% and xGF%. It didn’t matter. He made some really poor judgement calls with the puck and they ended up in the back of the net. His choice to try and make a move on the PK instead of taking the freebie clear off the glass on the Sabres second goal was egregious. To see such a strong game wasted like that is frustrating.

The Malkin penalty was a pretty strict interpretation. It was a case of getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar. When the Sabres player went down, that was that. I only got the one replay in the arena and it looked like he may have can openered him on the legs, but I never got another good look at it. Regardless, you have your stick near the hands or legs and the player bites it into the boards you are at the mercy of the official. Tough result 200 feet from your own net.

Erik Karlsson’s own goal was unfortunate. I would have liked it if his teammates picked him up and made a strong push after it. He does so much heavy lifting to create time and space for other players out there. They lean so heavily on him. It was a real treat to watch him go to work when you can see the entire ice sheet. He’s always calculating angles and pace of puck to make things happen.

There’s no time to sulk. The Penguins are home to host the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night. They are going to have to win some of these games if they want to make the playoffs. Might as well start tomorrow night.

Thanks for reading!
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