The Pittsburgh Penguins season of peaks and valleys has reached another valley and it is time to start crawling out of it.
After back to back losses against Winnipeg and Carolina, the Penguins kick off their week on Monday night with a game that SHOULD be two points against the Anaheim Ducks.
It is a week that should allow the Penguins to get back on track no matter who is in or out of the lineup.
On one hand, I try to be a very patient and reasonable man. I understand the struggles the Penguins have had lately with major absences from the lineup. There is only so much a team can do when it is down its top two defensemen, then has to play without its third best defenseman, and oh by the way your starting goalie is out as well.
I understand you have to maybe adjust your game and find ways to win, but injuries are not necessary an excuse. They are a reason. You can not just simply replace four top players off your back end and expect things are going to roll on as planned. Look at Colorado as another example. For five years they have been one of the best teams in the league, they are the defending Stanley Cup champions that rolled through the NHL a year ago (regular season and playoffs) like it was nothing.
Injuries have decimated their lineup all season this year and look at them now. On the outside of the playoff picture at the halfway point of the season. They did not forget how to play or just simply get bad in one offseason. They just have too many people out of the lineup.
Similar story here.
Having said that, this is a week where the Penguins have to make some noise and gather some points because the schedule is absolutely lined up for it.
It starts on Monday with a home game against an Anaheim Ducks team that has been awful all year, in every phase of the game, and been one of the absolute worst teams in the entire NHL. They have some outstanding young talent in Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, and Mason McTavish, but there is not much else behind that. And even Zegras and Terry have taken a small step backwards from this past season.
Either way, these are two points you NEED to collect.
After that it is two games against another underwhelming team, the Ottawa Senators.
Ottawa entered the season with some actual hope after an extremely busy offseason that saw them add Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, and Cam Talbot.
The problem: They have a great top six and a decent goalie, but little depth and a thin defense.
Overall, they have struggled.
They were starting to play a little better hockey in recent weeks but are coming into the week having lost three of five in pretty ugly fashion. This is still not a very good team.
Even with Penguins current lineup issues this is a week where they need to make some noise. Not only because they need the points, but because they are not going to have many weeks with a more favorable schedule than this.
It should be expected to get a minimum of four points, five or six would be preferable, and anything less than four points is probably a very, very, VERY bad sign.