Sunday's game against the New York Rangers doesn't need to be approached like a downtrodden soul looking to gulp down a mind eraser but after the Pittsburgh Penguins third period collapse surrendering four goals to the New York Islanders, a win against a Metropolitan division opponent in the playoff race would be good for the soul.
The team's 6-7-3 record against the Metropolitan whispers questions about their playoff sustainability if they can't field a four line roster but as the saying goes, get to the showers and wash that one off but if you're the head coach, what do you do?
When Head Coach Mike Johnston was hired, he said, "We want to have the proper habits, the proper mindset when we get there. That’s what matters most."
Then prior to the team's November back-to-back games against the Islanders, Johnston said, "I look forward to these two-game series that we have because it does give us a chance in the busy schedule that we have to see simulate playoff action."
If you forgot the result, they lost both games.
Which made Friday's result a bit concerning as the team was beaten handily in the third period by a faster, more aggressive team that took advantage of the opportunities and finished them but make no mistake about it on Friday night, Johnston wasn't at his best.
You could say Johnston didn't follow the creed echoed by Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, "We don't live in our fears, we live in our hopes."
That's all I could think about watching the start of the game Friday night with Johnston starting Brandon Sutter with Zach Sill and Steve Downie. Sill and Downie are not stopping anyone defensively and their limited offensive skills weren't going to matchup well against the Islanders top two lines.
Crosby or Malkin should have started the game.
Then in the third period after Downie had a broken stick and was losing his mind with the officials, he stood around and watched Downie take his team out of the game with a selfish penalty after the faceoff.
What was Johnston waiting to see happen?
Downie is a necessary evil for the Penguins because guys like him can even out the rough play if things start to get chippy but if he can't reign himself in with the foolishness, it might be time for the team to give him a game or two in the press box to rearrange his priorities.
Marcel Goc on Notice?
The Penguins waiver wire acquisition of former Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators center Mark Arcobello was an obvious move for some in their hope he'll push Sill or Craig Adams to the press box but I wouldn't rule out a move for the Penguins regarding Goc once the team gets Patrick Hornqvist and Blake Comeau back from their injuries.
Goc has a $1 million cap hit and has done very little this season scoring two goals, two assists, and 54.2% on faceoffs. He hasn't looked all that good on the penalty-kill often running around in the middle of the ice, often avoiding or winning any pucks along the boards.
Scoring Race and Playoff Preparation
The latest scoring burst by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have them tied with Dallas Stars forward Tyler Seguin for second place with 50 points and just three points behind Philadelphia Flyers winger Jakub Voracek.
It will be interesting to watch the second half of the season for Crosby and Malkin knowing Johnston is going to be coaching to prepare for the playoffs and that goes against the conventional approach both franchise centers have shown in the past as they value the season ending point totals.
Will both shed their reputation for high risk plays when Johnston blows his whistle?
Team Metrics at Even-Strength
Corsi For per 60: 54.82 (15th)
Corsi Against per 60: 52.03 (10th)
Scoring Chances For per 60: 25.85 (16th)
Scoring Chances Against per 60: 25.20 (13th)
*stats courtesy of War On Ice
Norris Trophy Talk
I've heard it said on game broadcasts and written on social media that Penguins defensemen Kris Letang is having himself a Norris Trophy campaign.
Let's put the skids on that talk because most voters don't look at much beyond points and plus/minus.
There are five defensemen with more points than his thirty and 55 with a higher plus/minus than his +5, even Scuderi is higher.
Letang is often viewed as an offensive defensemen in the national media, thus his 15 points on the power play looks quite a bit less than Kevin Shattenkirk's 24 in St. Louis.
If you want to look at TOI per game, he's seventh behind Ryan Suter, Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, and Duncan Keith.
Letang won't be winning this award.