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Random Penguins thoughts as the late season slide continues

Just a few random thoughts on the Pittsburgh Penguins right now.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

This weekend went about as we all expected for the Pittsburgh Penguins with road games against two Stanley Cup contenders — the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche — and there is not really much else to say about any of those games individually. The Penguins did not play well and managed only one out of a possible four points despite having a 4-0 lead with 25 minutes to play in one of those games.

So let us go through some random thoughts on everything involving this team right now.

  1. Mike Sullivan seems resigned to .... something

I am not sure if I have ever seen a coach react to blowing a four-goal lead quite like Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan did on Sunday. Especially given the circumstances of it being the team’s 11th loss in the past 14 games and their fifth loss when leading after two periods.

He just seemed ... calm.

He liked the effort, he talked about how good Colorado is, he keeps going back to how hard the team played. It just seems like a complete disconnect from the reality of what is happening on the ice. I do not expect him to go full John Tortorella and rip the team after every tough loss, but if there was ever a game for that sort of thing to happen, Sunday’s game would have been it.

It just did not happen.

It makes me wonder if he is resigned to his fate after the season.

Does he know he has complete job security?

Does he know he has no job security and that his time with the team is pretty much over?

Or does he just acknowledge this team stinks and is resigned to its place in the standings?

It has to be one of those three things because nothing seems to really phase him anymore. It is weird to watch.

2. How many wins do you think the Penguins actually have remaining this season?

This is an important question, because I am honestly not sure it is very many.

Look at it this way: The Penguins only three wins over the past month have come against Columbus and San Jose — two of the worst teams in the NHL — and a Detroit team that is rapidly fading down the stretch.

Every other even remotely competitive team that they have played has pretty much crushed them. They have been outscored by a 50-18 margin in the 11 losses over this stretch, losing six of those games by at least three goals.

Since February 28 the Penguins are allowing 2.87 expected goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, the fourth-worst mark in the league over that stretch, while also having the fifth-worst 5-on-5 goal differential.

It is rough.

What is also rough is the remaining schedule.

Only four of their remaining 12 games are against teams currently outside of the playoffs, and two of those games are against Detroit and New Jersey who are still somewhat competing for playoff spots.

They still have games with Carolina, New York Rangers, Washington, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston and Nashville.

Outside of the two games against Columbus this week I am not sure there is another game on the schedule I would be comfortable picking them to win. Even then the Columbus games do not seem like a lock just given the way things are going.

3. The goaltending has regressed to the mean rapidly

In the first half of the season the goaltending duo of Tristan Jarry and Alex Nedeljkovic was one of the few bright spots on the team and, outside of Sidney Crosby, probably the only thing keeping them in playoff contention.

Even that has disappeared.

Jarry and Nedeljkovic have both seen their individual save percentages drop down to .904 for the season and are continuing to get worse.

Over the past 25 games the Penguins’ 5-on-5 save percentage is only .894, the fourth-worst mark in the league over that stretch, while their all situations save percentage is down to an even worse .880. That is the second-worst mark in the league, ahead of only a Philadelphia Flyers team whose starting goalie is no longer part of the team.

Bad defense and worse goaltending is a terrible combination, and the Penguins have it going on right now. That is concerning because of the investment they have made in Jarry. It is another case of him fading late in a season and folding at the worst possible time.

It is not all on him, and it is not on the goalies, but they are no longer masking flaws.

They are now, again, part of the flaws.

4. The overtime struggles are almost comical at this point

Emphasis on almost because it is unbelievable to watch. As soon as Sunday’s game went to overtime you had to know there was no chance they were going to win that game.

They did not.

They are now 3-8 in games decided during 3-on-3 overtime this season, and even worse, it is their best players that have been the common denominators.

Sidney Crosby has been outscored 0-5 during 3-on-3 this season. Kris Letang has been outscored 0-4. Bryan Rust has been outscored 1-3. Jake Guentzel was outscored 0-4 before he was traded.

Overall Crosby, Letang, Rust and Guentzel (pre-trade) have all had mostly strong seasons. Their play on the power play and in overtime has significantly knocked their grades down a peg, especially when you consider the role those two situations have played in the Penguins’ overall performance and record this season.

Those are also two areas where coaching should also be playing a big role.

Coaching is a huge part of special teams play, and the Penguins are well known to not really work on 3-on-3 in practice.

Just a mess all around.

5. At least Crosby is on track for his point-per-game mark

That is pretty much the only thing there is to root for the rest of the way this season.

6. The Penguins have a much better chance at the No. 1 overall pick than the playoffs

After Sunday’s game the Penguins have a 1.5 percent chance to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs according to MoneyPuck.

They have a 5.0 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, a 10.2 percent chance of a top-two pick and a 10.4 percent chance fo a top-three pick. They currently have a 98.3 percent chance of a top-10 pick which would allow them to keep their 2024 first-round pick instead of having to send it to the San Jose Sharks as part of the Erik Karlsson trade. Those are some percentages I did not expect to see this season for them.