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Coyote Ugly: Pens faceplant, lose 3-0 to Phoenix

Uninterested.  Half-hearted.  Ugly.  Lacksidasical.  Piss-poor.  Uninspired.  Bland.  Disappointing.  Vomit-inducing.  Pick an adjective; if it's negative it applies to the Penguins performance on this night.  If it's positive or flattering, choose the antonym of that word and that's it.

Give Phoenix credit, they played a scrappy and team-oriented game.  Under new coach Dave Tippett, they played great as a unit and frustrated the Penguins by taking away time and space.  For their part, the Penguins took 10 penalties over the course of the game, starting the parade to the box just 40 seconds after the puck dropped.  Once they got the lead they planted all five guys in the neutral zone, sucking everything away from a Pittsburgh team that was unwilling, unable or uninterested in dumping the puck.

  • No one was more frustrated than Sidney Crosby; he lost faceoffs (12 of 17), got knocked over repeatedly by Ed Jovanovski, gave the puck away 4 times, flubbed passes, just looked out of sorts.
  • Brent Johnson wasn't bad, especially early making several big time saves early.  The way the team played, it wouldn't have mattered if Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy were playing goalie at the same time, something was eventually getting in.
  • Perhaps as a lone brightspot (other than some of Johnson's saves): Jordan Staal won 12 of 13 faceoffs and looked good in getting things off on the right foot, before he or his linemates turned the puck over, made an ill-advised pass or took a penalty.
  • The Penguins had some power-play chances of their own and couldn't cash in.  The Coyotes got two in two periods and then clamped down on defense.  That's your ballgame.
  • Diminutive Petr Prucha scored a great goal from being down and out to lifting it just over Johnson.  Lot's of crazy goals happen involving guys falling/spinning when it comes to Phoenix (like Alex Ovechkin's goal, Sidney Crosby's falling effort).  This one joins it.
  • Ilya Bryzgalov was good, but the Penguins never tested him to be great.  Still, he stopped everything they threw his way and earned the shutout.
  • Useless to name names (it is one game in October), but there's probably about 6-8 guys who should be disgusted with not only their performance, but their overall effort level out there tonight.  That's unacceptable and something that must be addressed internally by either the coach or some team leaders.
  • Lately the Penguins seem like they're missing something.  Is it Maxime Talbot's spark and infectous attitude?  Is it a guy like Petr Sykora's skill and willingness to find a shot?  Is it a Rob Scuderi/Hal Gill pairing?  It's hard to put a finger on it so early, but this team hasn't found their footing just quite yet.

Now the Penguins are geting a taste of what the "target on their backs" means as being the defending champion.  We've seen now the Islanders and the Coyotes elevate their games to very high levels; two teams on paper not expected to be good, but certainly didn't play that way.

That said, one game is just one game.  The Penguins have played out of sorts, almost as if they're adjusting back to the regular season grind, but it's just a single regular season game, one of 82.

If there's any comfort to take, it may be this.  Last year in October the Penguins lost a game in Phoenix 4-1 in a similiarly "blah" type game.  In that game Crosby didn't even finish it, as he injured his groin; something that would nag and dog him for months.  On the bright side, that didn't happen this season.  Is that grasping?  You bet, but it's something.  And on this night, that's about as good as it's going to get.