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Penguins are just giving points away

This is going to hurt them later in the season

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins were at least able to extend their current point streak to five consecutive games on Monday night with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

That gives them seven out of a possible 10 points during that stretch, which is at least collecting some points and making up for some lost ground from earlier in the season.

But the past two games really hurt because it was them losing back-to-back games to a divisional opponent that they should be better than, while also allowing that opponent to collect four points to the Penguins’ two points.

It is just giving points away, and continuing a season long trend of leaving points on the table.

This is the exact type of thing that ended up leaving the Penguins on the outside of the playoff picture a season ago, and if they do not dramatically change something here soon history is going to absolutely repeat itself.

The Penguins ended up missing the playoffs a year ago by a single point, and when the season was over it was a maddening look back at the number of points they left on the table in winnable games.

It was blowing multiple third period leads against the New York Islanders.

It was going losing an April game to a Chicago Blackhawks team whose fan-base wanted it to lose.

It was going winless against Montreal.

It was going one-for-three against both Ottawa and Detroit.

Even one of those games — just one! — going in the Penguins’ favor would have completely changed everything and put them in the playoffs. But they kept letting games slip away for one reason or another. Sometimes it was bad goaltending or lack of goaltending depth. Sometimes it was a lack of scoring depth. Sometimes it was poor defensive play and a blown lead. Sometimes it was the power play.

Sometimes it was all of those things.

But the same thing keeps happening this season. Just 24 games into the season we have seen them lose games in regulation to Chicago, Ottawa and Anaheim, a trio of teams that rank 27th, 30th and 31st in the league standings.

We have seen them blow a two-goal third period lead against a Buffalo team that ranks 24th in the league standings.

That does not even get into the overtime/shootout losses to Nashville and Philadelphia in three games over the past week.

It is not just the fact the Penguins have lost those games, but the way they have lost them. And the way they have lost in general.

When you look at the actual on-ice play of this roster there is actually the foundation of a pretty good team here. Their 5-on-5 numbers remain among the best in hockey. They have been, for the most part, strong defensively. The goaltending has been significantly better than anybody could have reasonably hoped for no matter which goalie has been in the crease.

The one common denominator in almost all of these losses has been the power play.

They allowed shorthanded goals in losses to Anaheim and Philadelphia, while the power play has scored a combined two goals in the losses to Chicago, Anaheim, Ottawa, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Nashville (seven games), with both of them coming in the regulation loss to the Ducks .... and in that game the power play not only failed to score with a full, two-minute, two-man advantage in the closing minutes of regulation in a tie game .... it also allowed a game-winning shorthanded goal with a minute to play.

That does not even get into the 1-0 loss to the New York Rangers — another huge divisional game — on the night before Thanksgiving where the power play went 0-for-5.

It has been nearly a full month since the Penguins last scored a goal with the man advantage, last doing so on Nov. 11 in a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres. In the 11 games since then the power play is a staggering 0-for-29, the only team in the league that has not scored a goal on the power play during that stretch. Every other team in the league has scored at least two goals. Thirty teams have scored at least three power play goals and 25 teams have scored at least four power play goals.

Even worse, the Penguins have allowed two shorthanded goals during that stretch and have a minus-two goal differential over the past 11 games on the power play.

They are plus-four (10th best in the league) during 5-on-5 play over that stretch and have the eighth-best penalty kill.

They are, again, doing almost literally everything else right except the power play. Almost all of these losses are by a single goal and almost all of them have been games where the power play, which has multiple future Hall of Famers and All-Stars on it, has failed to make any sort of a meaningful, positive impact. If anything it has consistently made a negative impact.

It is popular — and easy — to blame Todd Reirden for the failures of the power play, but at this point it still has to fall on the players. That many Hall of Famers and that much money invested in the position should be able to figure it out. They have the talent to do so. They just have to actually do it.

If they do not, and if the power play keeps sitting near the bottom of the league and fails to make a difference the way that it has, they are going to keep giving away games and points and put themselves in a position where they are left at the end of the season saying, “Well, if we had just won that one game earlier in the season.” Every other aspect of the team is there. They just need more from the one group that should be carrying them offensively.