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Pens blow 2-0 lead en route to dropping fifth straight to Florida

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On the heels of the Penguins allowing six straight goals and watching the Pittsburgh Steelers miss the playoffs for only the third time in the past nine years, bridges may be filling with jumpers in the city.  It's time to panic, the sky is falling, nothing will ever be right again!  Fire all the coaches, trade all the players, replace the cotton candy guy, tear down the new arena!

Alright, once that's out of our system let's calm down.  There's a lot of drama that comes with some highs and lows in an 82 game season.  Is losing five straight games disturbing?  Of course.  But when you talk about a two-time defending Conference champion that's going through the grind of a condensed regular season, sometimes it happens.

Should the players focus more on making efforts?  Absolutely, they're professionals being paid handsomely to win.  And they're not winning.  No one's happy, least of all the ultra-competitive young core of the team.

  • The Pens seemed pissed off and focused in the first period; they outshot their opponents 19-8 and were up 2-0 until near the end of the period when a long-shot squeezed through Marc-Andre Fleury.  In hindsight, it was a sign the dam was about to break.  The Pens effort was great in that first period, they did everything they wanted to, but only took a one goal lead into intermission.
  • From there it'd come crashing down, as the light switch the team turned on got flipped off and they almost went through the motions with each passing goal.
  • Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby combined for 17 shots on goal (with 9 more blocked away or missing the target).  When players this skilled are throwing this much rubber around, sooner or later it's going to start filling the net.
  • Mike Rupp, upset about a no-call, skated to the bench and smashed his stick on the wall right in front of the player's bench.  Part of the stick went flying dangerously close to several players.  Rupp was whistled for a minor penalty, but he should watch video of a Florida player who regrettably broke his stick in anger to get the bigger point about needlessly endangering your own teammates.
  • Of the five goals allowed, there were a couple of defensive zone meltdowns, but a couple that Fleury probably would have wanted back.  Playing the second game in just over 24 hours, should Bylsma have gone with his solid backup or was the message of playing the #1 the right call?  The team did come out the gates really strong, so I'm not going to totally pile on the decision to start MAF twice in two days, but he sure wasn't at his sharpest as the game went on.
  • If you're really reaching for a bright side, may I propose this: the Pens still took 6 of the 8 possible points from Florida in the season series.  A team figures to be in good shape if they do that to every opponent of the course of the year.

As Evgeni Malkin said in a post-game interview, "life is not over".  Lose five games in a row and it's curtains if it's April, May or June (well, actually it's impossible, but you get my drift).  The calendar and the thermometer definitely says January, and trudging through a long season it's not always possible to march through everyone every game.  As long as the Pens heat up with the mercury in the spring, they'll be fine.  Keeping in perspective the 26-16-1 record that sets the Pens up for the playoffs.  Until then, we march along, and yes, have to endure a couple losing streaks here or there.

The next game is Tuesday, and it might be an opportunity to break the skid: the team gets Atlanta (winners of just 1 of their past 10) at home.  It'll take turning that switch back to "ON" and leaving it there for a full 60 minute effort.