This Pittsburgh Penguins team never does things by halves. When they win, they keep winning.
And when they lose, they spiral.
The Penguins came out of a 5-2 loss to the Golden Knights on Thursday— their sixth consecutive defeat— with more than a few concerns. There are the temporary blows (the loss of their starting goaltender, their top defender and another key d-man) and the structural issues (a lack of scoring depth, leading the Penguins to regularly put out seven defensemen rather than fully staff the fourth line.)
None of those problems are going to be fixed immediately. But these next few days still present a perfect opportunity for the Penguins to get back on track with games against the Arizona Coyotes on the road on Sunday and the Vancouver Canucks at home on Tuesday.
The Coyotes have lost their last four games, partially because of their scoring woes.
This squad has topped three goals only nine times in 38 games, and they’re putting fewer pucks on net than any other team in the NHL. This could be the break the Penguins’ defense needs to adjust to new pairings, and a confidence-booster Casey DeSmith could use to settle into his temporary starter’s role.
The Canucks present a very different obstacle. This is a high-scoring team with serious offensive talent, and captain Bo Horvat is set for a career year with 28 goals in 38 games. Their power-play is also converting on almost a quarter of all opportunities, ranking them top-10 in the NHL.
Surprisingly enough, given that Thatcher Demko has in the past been a bright spot for this struggling team, it is goaltending that is sinking Vancouver.
Both Demko (who has been injured for the past month) and Spencer Martin (the Canucks’ starter during Demko’s injury) are sitting at a save percentage of .883, hovering around four goals against per game, and have yet to record a shutout.
The Penguins have been looking for more secondary scoring. The Canucks present the perfect opportunity to turn pucks on net into goals.
Are the Penguins destined to win these two games? Absolutely not. If this team has shown us anything, it’s that they can always find a way to lose.
But what could be a better opportunity to climb out of a slump than games against one team that struggles to score, and another which struggles to stop opponents from scoring?