This might be painful to see, but Mike Kelly from TSN and the NHL Network put together a package of examples of poor defensive plays by the Pittsburgh Penguins lately.
Penguins have lost 5 straight games. Defensive zone coverage has been a big problem. During the losing streak, Pens rank 28th allowing passes into the slot and 28th in high-danger shots against. Some examples of blown coverage from the last couple of games... pic.twitter.com/ZzB2kylRrE— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) November 9, 2018
As Kelly notes, the Pens are 28th in allowing passes into the slot and high-danger chances against. They’re losing coverage, guys are stepping up or away from players and it’s resulting in goals against.
It all adds up to some sloppy play. And looking at the upcoming schedule for the next week, Pittsburgh might have their hands full with the next few opponents.
- Saturday: Arizona Coyotes — 2.86 goals/game (24th)
- Tuesday: @New Jersey Devils — 3.23 goals/game (14th)
- Thursday: Tampa Bay Lightning — 3.63 goals/game (2nd)
- next Saturday: @Ottawa Senators — 3.44 goals/game (5th)
At first blush, the next game against Arizona should be the best one for the Pittsburgh defense. Arizona at 7-6-1 is off to a pretty decent start, but they aren’t scoring a lot. Then again, the Pens are on a five-game losing streak and though they’re usually good at home, they’re also 0-3-1 at home in the last four games.
After that, though, the Pens will see some top offensive teams. The Devils just beat the Pens 5-1 earlier this past week - then they see two top-5 teams in goals. One of them surprisingly, one not.
The Pens look weak on defense; they’ve split Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin, the best two defenseman on the team and the two playing the best. Letang has gotten some decent play out of Jack Johnson in the last two games, while Dumoulin has had a tougher time with Jamie Oleksiak. Juuso Riikola was a great pre-season story but has metrics that say he doesn’t belong in the NHL. Chad Ruhwedel has floated in and out of the lineup.
Justin Schultz is still out for months on end. He’s missed 10 games and isn’t walking back through that door any time soon. He’s going to miss 40+ more games. The personnel isn’t the best and Pittsburgh likely isn’t going to be a top defense anyways. But if they want success (and want it without the general manager splitting up a sizeable chunk of the core) then they better start finding a way to perform better and avoid having more examples for people like Kelly to pick apart in the above video.