Doubts Over Pittsburgh Penguins’ NHL-Long Playoff Streak

I could intercept a comet.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, in many ways the industry standard over the past 15 years in the NHL, are looking pretty bad at the moment. They look old, they look slow, and it looks like they might be home to the playoffs for the first time since Sidney Crosby’s rookie season. Which isn’t great for a team, and especially a front office, that’s trying to get its aging core to get another shot.

Penn got his ass rubbed in the moonlight last night in New Jersey, a 5-1 loss to the Devils that wasn’t that close. Pittsburgh measures both attempts and expected goals and almost any other measure you want to use. They were well behind the Devils at every step and everywhere on the ice you wondered if they were drugged.

It continued a maddening pattern for Penn, who hasn’t been able to build up any sort of steam to grab a playoff spot by the throat, which is something no other team wants. They keep trying to trade it to the Florida Panthers or the Islanders, but because the Panthers are coached by Paul Morris and so they’re trying to drive with both thumbs up their ass, they won’t even take it from Pittsburgh. Has gone. The Penguins have not been able to win more than two consecutive weeks in three weeks.

What went wrong for Pittsburgh?

Has the problem happened? Where would you like to start? While the metrics from March 1 look great (53.6 Corsi-Rating, 56.3 Expected-Target Share), they can’t count on those numbers on either end. His goaltending has been abysmal over the past five weeks — Casey DeSmith has a .905 save percentage in that time, Tristan Jarry’s .878. And, if you’ll allow me to go by an old standard, they can’t kick a bull in the ass with a banjo on the other end, shooting at less than seven percent strength.

Almost all the weights pulled by the top of the roster, your crossbies, your Malkins, your letangs, are still receiving the pen. But whatever GM Ron Hextall tries to do to strengthen the bottom six or so pairs, it looks like the worst science fair project imaginable. Jeff Carter looks like mayonnaise left out in the sun for a week. The Pens acquired Mikael Granlund at the deadline and he’s got four points in 16 games, and here’s how it’s going:

Dmitri Kulikov came in from Anaheim and immediately his limbs dropped to his ankles or something because he hasn’t been seen since.

All of this has prompted Penn to leave like a drunk server at brunch. He gave the Bruins at least one last Saturday when he left David Pastrnak alone in his slot with a square mile of space. He has scored only 56 goals so far. They gave up seven goals to the Wings who have nothing to do these days and not a lot of people to do it with, and after that they were down 3-0. Earlier in the third match against the Stars he conceded two goals in two minutes in a 1–1 draw, which came the night after the Avalanche beat him in Colorado, only to make it more infuriating. They lost at home to the Senators when they surrendered the winner with less than three minutes to go.

Had they clinched the two home games against Ottawa and Boston in OT, they would have had a one-point lead for the first wild card spot, instead of watching the asses of both the Islanders and Panthers. It’s hard to do that kind of thing, though, when you’re consistently outscored in the third period, as Penn (94-82) did.

The schedule can save them. They have the wild next, trying to win the Central. But after that, it’s two teams head to Columbus and Chicago for the Sucked Hard for Bedrock derby with a game against the Inert Wings. But as we saw earlier, there are no guarantees. But the Islanders see three moribund teams in their four remaining games (Caps, Flyers, Habs), while the Panthers also get the Sens and the Caps and then the Lightning and the Canes who have nothing to play for. But the Penn’s are tied squarely on the tiebreaker (regulation win), so they’ll have to score two points over either the Isles or the Panthers. Which probably means running into the table, and with a goal that’s constantly looking the wrong way and a bottom six that’s been turned into gravel, who’s betting on that?

It may be that Bill has finally arrived at The Confluence, which is usually what you get when you hire Hextall. Who looks at Flyers and thinks, “Yeah, I’ll take some of that?” You get what you deserve, sometimes.

Joel Embiid is not the MVP?

You sure this guy isn’t the MVP? Maybe a little more due diligence needs to be done?

Besides, the only other person to do all that while shooting 80 percent from the field is Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt did it against a handful of people who were bused in from the DMV. Embiid was finding his footing through a top-five defensive team in this NBA. I’m not saying, I’m just sayin’…