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Random takes: A team of streaks, ice cold finishing and more

Off day musings about the Penguins

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Pittsburgh Penguins v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

Random off day notes, idle thoughts and passing commentary...

The Penguins have been a team of streaks this season.

What to make of that? When in a groove, they’re as good as anyone. When in a rut, they can’t beat anyone. There have been some unpredictable Penguins teams lately — who would have guessed they would get swept by the Islanders a few years ago? Or totally have their way with all-world goalie Igor Shesterkin, only to be betrayed by goaltending of their own last year? That stuff was truly unpredictable.

But this year’s team is predictably unpredictable. The only thing you can be sure of is that you have no clue what will happen next.

Last night goalie frustration was evident after Casey DeSmith’s third period struggles, but I’d go to the other end of the equation. Score a damn goal.

Here’s the scoring since the deadline:

Jake Guentzel has been scoring a lot lately, but otherwise there’s a lot to be concerned about and left desired about the goal output from the team. Even in the middle of mighty fine season, Jason Zucker found the back of the net last night for the first time in eight games - which makes for a lengthy drought when Malkin isn’t scoring a ton on his own either. (Though Malkin’s 13 assists in this time that are unseen in the outlook above go a long way in other areas).

Bryan Rust’s lone goal in this time was the result of an empty netter. It’s starting to come up more, but what a rotten and totally unsatisfying season he’s had. As Josh Yohe pointed out, sometimes Rust can’t even complete the basics like receiving a pass, which makes actually beating a goalie to score a goal become an impossible task. Not sure what it is as far as possible health or something, but Rust isn’t right. A player doesn’t go from being virtually a point-per-game player for three years to that bad overnight for no reason. But whatever the reason, it doesn’t help the Penguins right now.

Mikael Granlund, as mentioned, isn’t a fit and looks out-right afraid to shoot the puck at times, which may be a ridiculous thing to say, but is fitting after passing up several chances last night.

In addition to the depth players on the lower lines pitching in very little, the defense is comically punch-less, even counting Kris Letang the blueliners have three total even strength goals in this stretch as a group.

Pittsburgh could use an extra save here or there, but this team is frustrating on both sides of the ice as equally these days. The scoring chances and creating expected goals is nice, but as we’ve seen all year — the extreme inability from anyone not named Crosby, Guentzel, Zucker, Malkin or Rakell to be consistent in producing goals/points has been extremely limiting and an area that neither players nor coaches nor managers have been able to change very much.

An interesting outlook at the remaining schedule, from Micah Blake McCurdy:

Not that the Penguins can be reliably counted on to actually take advantage of their favorable opportunities, but the rest of the schedule looks like it should be pretty good. Of the nine remaining games, only three will come against playoff opponents.

The last two games of the season the opponents (CHI and CBJ) are already eliminated. Chicago will be on a back-to-back and the Pens will be rested. There’s only one more game to gut through, this Sunday against Philadelphia, but the Flyers have to travel and play on Saturday and Pittsburgh only has to play.

Given that the Pens just blew it against Detroit last night (like they blew it against Ottawa last week or Montreal the week before that...), there’s no such thing as a sure thing with this group. But it probably could be worse.

“It probably could be worse” could be the Pens motto this season, given that no matter how bad it looks now - any future games or transactions to attempt to correct the team usually just end up coming out worse. And yet Pittsburgh still likely will make it to the playoffs, if only in name only.