There is nothing going right for the Pittsburgh Penguins right now.
After jumping out to a 5-2 lead on Tuesday night, they watched as the Boston Bruins stormed back with four consecutive goals to extend their current losing streak to five consecutive games, erasing what was a very promising 4-0-1 start to the season.
Regardless of whether or not it is a long-term cause for concern, it is still an ugly stretch of hockey where nothing has gone right. Now they have to play their third set of back-to-backs in a week on Wednesday night when they travel to Buffalo to play a young, fast Sabres team to try again to end their losing streak.
So what has gone wrong over the past five games?
Let’s start with the special teams, as both units have been AWFUL over the past week-and-a-half, and Tuesday’s game was no exception.
The power play is only 3-for-20 on the current losing streak, and looked awful against Boston, including in overtime with a chance to end the game on a 4-on-3 power play where their best chances ended up missing the net entirely. The power play has been terribly inconsistent for more than a year now and has missed several opportunities to either put games away, or perhaps even end a game. You hate to blame the offense on a night where they scored five goals, as that should always be a win, but the power play let them down on Tuesday.
The penalty kill has been letting them down all year, and it has been especially bad over the past five games.
During the currrent losing streak the Penguins are just 10-for-15 on the PK, while they also allowed a 6-on-5 goal to tie the game on Tuesday against Boston.
After jumping out to a 5-2 lead in the second period on Tuesday, they allowed Boston’s power play to quickly strike to cut the deficit to two goals going into third period. They really needed a kill there to keep the momentum going and not allow Boston a chance to get back into the game.
It’s been a combination of poor penalty killing from their four skaters (no matter the combination) allowing too many shots and chances, to poor goaltending.
Speaking of which, they could really use a save right now.
Goaltending has not been the only problem over the past five games, but it has been a problem. Tristan Jarry had a lousy game on Tuesday, and did not help out his teammates at all. That overtime goal? Can not happen. Sometimes you need your goalie to come through, and over the past five games they are getting .877 goaltending from Jarry and Casey DeSmith. Jarry has been especially bad with an .861 mark during that stretch,
This is a huge season for him, not only because the Penguins need him to be good for the team to succeed, but also for his own personal contract situation.
I am not going to make any definitive statements on the goaltending for the season based on one early season losing streak, but they have to be better than they have been. Goaltending has been the biggest issue and question mark for the Penguins the past couple of seasons — especially in the playoffs — and they keep bringing back the same duo. The pressure is on them to come through, and they have been a big problem during the streak.
The other problem: Too many passengers right now.
The bottom-six in particular has had a rough time. The third-and-fourth lines have been outscored 7-9 during their past five games and are simply bleeding goals against. I do not need the third-and-fourth lines to provide a ton of offense, but they can not keep giving up goals at this rate. Too many. And when combined with the struggles of the penalty killing unit, the complementary forwards are absolutely getting caved in defensively. That is putting you in a hole you can not climb out of on some nights.
And then there is Brian Dumoulin, whose play is not getting any better.
He was on the ice for three more goals against on Tuesday, and has now been on the ice for 19 goals against this season in all situations, which is one of the worst marks in the league. All his fault? No. But he has been a problem, and it is not getting better.
When all of those things go wrong at the same time, it produces a five-game losing streak.
Now, I maintain that I do not really care much about the record over the first 10 games of the season, and do not really care what the standings look like until we get into the 20-30 game mark. But this has still been a very poor stretch of hockey with a lot of things falling apart at the same time, and they are all things that have been question marks (specifically the bottom-six, Dumoulin, and goaltending) from the start of the season. They need all of those areas to be better. Very quickly.