Big news: if you can't tag Curtis McIlhenny and what remains of the Columbus Blue Jackets for more than one goal, you've got problems one trade deadline won't fix.
That's the kind of reality that's settling in on the Pittsburgh Penguins now, who've dropped three straight while scoring three total goals and perfecting the art of a good 40-minute game.
Scott Hartnell and Brandon Dubinsky scored to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 win over the Penguins Thursday, moving the Penguins' current losing skid to three straight.
Evgeni Malkin scored the Pens' lone goal.
Last week, we talked about the Penguins' troubles with the top of the Metropolitan Division. Problem is, even the bottom of the division is giving them hell. After derping away Thursday's contest on a Blake Comeau power play turnover-turned-shorty, their season-long record within the Metropolitan Division has fallen to 7-11-4.
- Five of those seven wins have come against the lottery-bound New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes.
- They've got one apiece against the Rangers and Islanders.
- Columbus and Philadelphia, both closer to a shot at Connor McDavid than a playoff berth, are 3-0-0 against the Penguins.
The Penguins haven't won a division game since beating the Devils on January 30. They haven't won a division game against a playoff-seeded opponent since the Rangers shootout game on November 15. Their only non-shootout win against a playoff opponent within the division is a 3-1 win over the Islanders on October 18, the fourth game of the season.
- No Metropolitan team has more regulation losses within the division than Pittsburgh.
Okay, wait, now one more.
- Only Carolina has a lower points percentage in divisional games than Pittsburgh's .500 mark.
We can beat this horse past its death because the Penguins, a team that at times this year was a stone's throw away from having the best record in the NHL, are almost absolutely going to have to face a Metropolitan Division opponent if they are to make any ground in the Eastern Conference playoff field.
Finish second or third, and they've got a 100 percent chance of facing one of the Capitals, Rangers or Islanders (against whom they are a combined 2-7-2 this year).
Finish with one of the East's Wild Card spots (and it looks like they'll be split between both divisions) and they've got 50-50 odds of facing the Metropolitan winner. Right now, that's trending towards being the New York Islanders, who've outscored the Pens by a 16-11 margin in four games this season.
Finish first and aaahahaha I'm just kidding.
Sidney Crosby got into a fight with Brandon Dubinsky, which probably felt pretty good for Crosby to get off his chest and exactly no one else.
We say no one else because it wasn't enough to rally this team to a victory over a middling division opponent.
(And no, it wasn't a captain rallying his team to a cause, either. What it was was stupid and dumb and possibly injurious to one of the few positive offensive forces the team has had in the midst of what is on pace to become its worst offensive season since the last time they missed the playoffs nearly a decade ago.)
Things should get easier over the next few games, as the Penguins only have to face division opponents in two of their next four games.
Kidding! Good chance we'll get to do this all again a week from now.
I'm turning pucks over at the blue line on twitter, @SlewFooters