With the Penguins having two capable defensive pairings in Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang and Marcus Pettersson and John Marino, the Penguins just need a serviceable effort from their third pairing in Justin Schultz and Jack Johnson.
The problem right now is that they aren’t even getting that.
When your third pairing is on the ice for an offensive zone face-off and 5 seconds later, the puck is already heading the other way and you have to go into defensive mode, that’s a problem.
Last night, during Game 3 of the Penguins and Canadiens qualifying round series, the problems with the Schultz-Johnson pairing were on blast for the world to see.
Failing to keep the puck in on the aforementioned offensive zone face-off was the first problem.
Things became a giant cluster when the Canadiens attacked.
With numbers back in their favor, you would think that being able to snuff out an offensive charge would’ve been feasible.
Four players not exercising proper social distancing here and crowding the same space to mark two players while leaving another (who is a defenseman) in front of the net for an easy tap-in is remarkably frustrating to watch.
On the second goal of the game, scored on a tip-in by Jonathan Drouin, it felt like a little more of the same, but not as egregious.
Perhaps a lack of spatial awareness? Here, the two players in between the faceoff circles were marked by two other players. Justin Schultz kind of just seemed stuck in no-man’s land , leaving Drouin alone for an easy tip-in.
These obviously are not one-off issues. I feel like some of it comes down to confidence, and neither player has any reason to be confident right now.
Whether one of these players come out of the lineup for Game 4 is yet to be seen.