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Sunshine State Struggles: why are the Penguins so bad in Florida?

A look at the Pens’ troubles playing in Miami and Tampa

Pittsburgh at Florida David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

With a few days off in between games and a swing through Florida, the Penguins get a nice lull in the schedule. With some downtime, Evgeni Malkin enjoyed some fishing earlier this week in Tampa (apparently with Nikita Kucherov!) Heard of guys going out to dinner on occasion before games, but I guess when in Rome..

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Great day thanks @nikitakucherov86

A post shared by Evgeni Malkin (@e.malkin71geno) on

The fun time will be over though, as the Pens get a game against the Lightning tomorrow and then head southeast to Sunrise and play the Panthers on Saturday night. Usually when the Pens’ go south, they swing through both the Florida stops on the NHL docket in one trip. It’s usually not a good outcome:

Penguins vs. Tampa/Florida home/road splits

Year Games in Florida While in Pittsburgh
Year Games in Florida While in Pittsburgh
2019-20 0-2-0 0-1-0
2018-19 0-1-1 4-0-0
2017-18 1-3-0 2-0-0
2016-17 2-0-0 4-0-0
2015-16 2-1-1 1-1-0

In the last three seasons that makes for just a 1-6-1 record inside the sunshine state, including losses this year on October 22nd in Florida and then October 23rd in Tampa. In some ways, it’s more than just “oh the weather’s nice and there’s natural distraction”. Tampa has been one of the league’s best teams in recent seasons, and it’s tough to beat a top team in their own barn. Often time there can be back-to-back situations in play with travel as well. And, yeah, it’s probably tough to focus on the road when the venue is so nice in the dead of winter.

Then again, going 4-1-1 in the early Mike Sullivan days shows that this is not some long-running curse or extended state that the Pens have struggled in. They’ve been much worse playing in Boston for longer.

But this trip will likely be tough sledding as well. The Lightning are 7-2-1 in their last 10 with a four game winning streak, including beating Marc-Andre Fleury and Vegas last night. The Panthers are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games. That’s pretty good. Overall the two Florida teams are a combined 31-15-4 at home so far this season. They’re getting good results at home, be it because they’re good (both are in the top-three in the Atlantic Division currently) or due to the distractions.

Either way, this will be an important stretch on the road for the Pens and one they better enjoy. They don’t get the three straight days off in between games again like they do from Sunday against Washington to Thursday in Tampa again for the rest of the regular season.

Soon we’ll see if they can buck trends and get some positive results within the Sunshine state.