The outcome of this evening's beat down left an array of emotions that could only be recognized more specifically in the aftermath of brooding. Repetitiously mulling over the "why" and "how" a team could blow a two-goal lead in the third was quickly answered based on the same premise of "why" and "how" the Pens could do it the other night against Carolina. If anything, I've lived a day in the life of a Hurricanes fan.
The quest for first place, if only held for a single day, was once again put on halt as there is presently a three-way tie between the Flyers, Penguins and Devils for first in the Atlantic.
In the absence of Sid, the Pens announced they'd be happy with simply playing .500 hockey. Although I'd hope that to be the worst possible outcome, it seems to be the overall goal at this point.
3-3-2 is where the Sidless Pens stand. Pitt has managed to squeak away with 8 of the possible 16 points. It is .500 hockey.
Yet despite the pursuit and contentment of .500 mediocrity, the "cup's half-full" philosophy tends to flip from game to game. Two nights ago, the Penguins looked like an offensive juggernaut. They rallied back in the third, posting four-straight goals to win over the Canes 4-1. Tonight in NJ, the Pens shut down and let up three-straight goals to hand over a win to the division rival.
And Michel Therrien couldn't have been more peeved.
"It's unacceptable to lose a hockey game like this. Unacceptable. A guy like (defenseman) Ryan Whitney, he's going to have to be more aggressive around the net. He's not aggressive at all. It cost us the game."
Eesh. Whatever happened to the ole, "The team thats wins together, loses together" philosophy? I don't know where Therrien stands, but if you ask me, single-handedly pointing out a player for being the fault of a game is a bit low-brow. You could just as well blame Ty Conklin for not making the save, Jordan Staal for not winning the faceoff and the Zamboni driver for not perfecting the ice in front of the Pens' net.
Perhaps Therrien should blame himself in the process. After all, it was his doing in the first half of the season to keep veteran (and now alternate captain) Daryl Sydor scratched for a good portion of the Pens' first handful of losses. Just last game Whitney vocalized how much Sydor embraced him as a young defenseman and offered to pose as the veteran leadership for the blueliners. And now, Therrien turns around and dismantles morale.
"It just seems like we're going winning, losing, winning, losing, and that's not good enough"
Yes, that's exactly what is happening. And, when you publically announce you just hope to attain a .500 record without Sid, that's kind of how the schedule of victories will run.
At the same time, I have to hand it to Jordan Staal. When asked to step up, he really has. Both he and Erik Christensen have been adding a lot of depth to the Pens as of recently.
Now onto more pressing matters : Marc-Andre Fleury. MAF is set for his return to the line-up very soon. With that in mind, you have to ask, "who's going to take a seat?"
More than a few would say Sabourin is going down to WBS, while others (myself included) feel as if he'll be offered up as trade fodder right before the deadline (currently 21 days away.)
Either way, the outcome of tonight's game shows not only concrete evidence of a team in pursuit of mediocrity, but also a team dismantling at the seams. A point a game isn't a bad approach at this point. To top if off, the race is closer than ever in the Atlantic - it's still anybodies division. At this point it comes down to who wants it more and who can rally around a strong centered force. It takes a special character to do just that. Often the responsibilities fall on the captain or the team's veterans, but the coach is always a centripetal force. When your captain is sidelined and one of the vets is recovering from a broken leg, it all comes down on the coach. Pointing out and blaming a player for his faults has its place, and I don't think a press conference is where it should be displayed.
I'd say for a guy struggling to keep an injured team together, Therrien is the crack in the foundation.