Record: 7-4-0, 14 points
Metropolitan Division: 1st
Eastern Conference: 4th
What a different mood we have in comparison to last week. We can never forget how quickly success can turn to suck in an 82-game season, and this past week brought many of us back to Earth after a fast start. Three games later and the win column hasn't budged from what it was a week ago today.
These three games handed us losses that were each uniquely different: Against the Colorado Avalanche, the Pens really battled hard against a team that collapsed on their own net and blocked anything that moved in the general direction of the goal. Against the New York Islanders, the Pens were on the cusp of victory when everything collapsed in the final minutes of the game. Against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Pens were meh across the board, fully embracing the losing streak they were immersed in.
There was one thing each of those losses had in common: The Pens were generating chances. It's a world of a difference if the Pens are hemmed in their zone for the majority of the game and can't get any offense going. The opportunities are there and that's half the battle.
These ruts are are seemingly contagious, but nothing some hard work that generates good bounces can't cure.
I alluded to this in the previous section, but the Pens aren't in this losing streak if they bury a few more of their chances. They didn't so that allows for the frustration to build and/or the other team to cash in. Once behind, the Pens were outworked in multiple areas and there was no turning back.
While we're talking about burying chances, the power play must be more dependable. The Pens had 15 power play opportunities in their three losses and 10 of them were in the first period. Opposing teams couldn't have gift-wrapped a better present, but the Pens only scored on one of those power plays. For the record, I don't think there needs to be a massive overhaul of the power play. Again, the Pens are getting their chances. Just put the puck on net (which has proven difficult, especially against these shot-blocking teams. The Pens miss James Neal's shot here), stick your nose in those high-traffic areas, and good things will happen.
If there was something I would completely overhaul, it's the Pens play in the third period. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. The third period, not the first or second, is where games are won and lost. Against the Islanders, the Pens played as if the game was over in the 53rd minute. The results were straight out of a horror movie and backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff deserved a better outcome.
Highlight of the Week
s/t to Mike Darnay
The wonders of Sidney Crosby (most notably good edge work).
Shifting from defense to forward and vice versa happens here and there in the NHL. Dan Bylsma has opted to make use of this ability and moved Deryk Engelland to the fourth line wing. Many of us chuckled when that line combination was announced, reminiscing of the time Brooks Orpik was promoted similarly back in the day.
In my recap against Philadelphia, I wasn't a fan of this move. I felt that Dustin Jeffrey was better suited (aka better skilled) for this role. While I haven't had a complete change of heart, I feel like the move makes more sense the more I see Engelland in that position. Bylsma wants as much net-front presence as possible, and that's something the Pens are sorely being outworked on. Engelland even managed to score a goal against the Islanders because he was crashing the net with the puck sitting in the crease.
Simply put, if Engelland is going to dress, I much rather see him as a winger rather than on defense. Hopefully that means with the return of Beau Bennett and Neal, we won't be seeing him at all. But with Rob Scuderi now out with a lower body injury, who knows where we'll see Engellend next.
What do you think?
The Pens are playing an injured Carolina team tonight, but hopefully they don't get caught looking ahead to the Boston Bruins game on Wednesday. No Jaromir Jagr this time, but now they have Jarome Iginla. Still doesn't feel like he was a Penguin but that could be because he was on the team for like a day.
Don't lose sight of the fact it's still October. Thus far, we've seen some great hockey and some crap hockey and we will be seeing a lot more of both as we dig deeper into the season.