It always seems to be the same people.
If you are truly only as strong as your weakest link(s), then the Pittsburgh Penguins might be completely cooked given the play of their weakest links over the past couple of games to turn what looked to be a strong, significant week in the playoff race into a frustrating dud with back-to-back losses to the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers.
If anything, the past couple of weeks have perfectly captured the spirit of the 2022-23 Pittsburgh Penguins. A team with enormous potential. A team that does a lot of things right and posts strong numbers during 5-on-5 play. A team that is capable of stringing together a hot stretch and a bunch of wins (like going 7-1-1 over a nine-game stretch going into the Montreal game). Yet ultimately a team that is still badly flawed and will get held down by those flaws and lose a bunch of games it should probably win. Not only could win. Should win.
Those flaws always seem to come back to the same people, and it is a frustratingly short list that always seems to involve one of Jeff Carter, Brian Dumoulin, the goalies, and most recently, Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
When it is not one of the the aforementioned skaters, it tends to be the goalies, like it was against Montreal and some of those losses to the New York Islanders.
When it is not the goalies, it is one of those two or three skaters.
Sometimes I feel like I oversimplify this game. Am I guilty of making certain people the scapegoat? Maybe! But then you look at the numbers and it is hard to imagine that being the case, because it quite literally is always the same two or three people.
It is not an exaggeration or hyperbolic statement to say that if the Penguins give up a goal right now, there is a very good chance that one of Brian Dumoulin and/or Jeff Carter is not only on the ice, but that they were at the center of the goal being scored against them.
That has been especially true since the All-Star break.
Let’s look at some numbers!
In those 19 games since the All-Star Break the Penguins have allowed 44 goals during 5-on-5 play.
Dumoulin and Carter have been on the ice for eight of those goals together, while the team has been outscored 8-0 in those minutes.
Dumoulin has been on the ice without carter for 13 of those goals.
Carter has been on the ice without Dumoulin for six of those goals.
That is 27 out of those 44 goals with at least one of them on the ice in only 479 minutes.
Without either of them on the ice? Only 17 goals against in 455 minutes.
Both on the ice together: 8.83 goals against per 60 minutes.
One of them on the ice: 2.64 goals against per 60 minutes.
NEITHER of them on the ice: 2.24 goals per 60 minutes.
Their overall 5-on-5 numbers with neither on the ice are shockingly good. Since the start of February the Penguins are aa 58 percent Corsi team and 58.9 percent expected goals share team with a 27-17 goals advantage when neither is on the ice. That is Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils territory.
But when one of those two gets out there, bad things happen.
This is not even meant to be a pile on. It is just straight facts and numbers.
This is also just during 5-on-5 play. It does not even get into the penalty kill where things are just as bad.
With Dumoulin on the PK: 9.69 goals against per 60 minutes.
With Carter on the PK: 17.31 goals against per 60 minutes (though, to be fair, this is only about eight minutes of ice-time since the All-Star break).
With neither on the PK: 4.17 goals against per 60 minutes.
Add in inconsistent goaltending that is completely hit-and-miss from night to night, with the recent struggles of P.O. Joseph (and he has had some BIG mistakes lately) and you literally have four or five people holding everything back.
This is exactly what happened against Montreal (with Carter being on the ice for four goals against in eight minutes) and on Thursday night in New York where Carter and Dumoulin played major roles in the three Rangers non-empty net goals.
Adding to the frustration is that duo somehow found itself taking a shift together in the final three minutes with the Penguins down by a goal and trying to desperately tie the game. For the entirety of the season when Carter and Dumoulin have been on the ice the Penguins have been outscored by a 22-3 margin during 5-on-5 play. There is never a good, justifiable reason to have them out there together at any point in time. Putting them out there together in that situation is just incompetent.
I know. I keep writing about this and talking about. I feel like it is the only subject I have written about for two or three weeks now. Maybe four weeks. But holy crap what else am I supposed to do when it keeps becoming the story. Not a story. Not a part of the story. THE story.
Bad management made it possible with the roster construction. Bad coaching keeps putting them in big situations.