Daily Faceoff Live: How are the Pittsburgh Penguins bouncing back?
In Wednesday’s edition of Daily live face-to-face, Frank Seravalli and Mike McKenna were joined by Athleticism Pittsburgh Penguins senior writer Rob Rossi for another edit of the All 32 segment presented by DoorDash.
Frank Seravalli: Let’s talk about those Penguins because they’ve been pretty lackluster the last few games. It’s a bit hard to understand given how badly they started, how strong they started. You saw Sidney Crosby rush through the door, then you head west and it’s almost like the wheels have fallen off. What happened from your point of view?
Rob Rossi: Well, I think they made up for it in their own way, they were winning those games early, and they weren’t playing big teams early, they were getting ahead of a lot of teams and scoring six goals at home every night. I think they went to Edmonton and tried to play that type of game against the Oilers and the Oilers reminded them that it’s the 2022-23 Penguins not the 2012-13 Penguins, it’s a little harder to follow these young legs. Calgary was probably a schedule waste, Calgary had been out for three days before that, and then the Penguins were just plain bad at the end of that trip to Seattle and against Vancouver. They weren’t very good against Boston, it’s hard to judge because Boston plays so well. They had a three goal lead, playing really sloppy with the puck in the neutral zone, their defense was miserable. Brian Dumoulin looks slow to the point that you wonder if he can make the top four in this league. Kris Letang who was sick did not play his best hockey, they are very lucky that Crosby and Malkin were as good as them. Just like the Leafs, I think they’re extremely lucky to have the points they have because they haven’t reached that point total either.
mike mckenna: Rob, I look at this club in Pittsburgh and I had them chosen as the Stanley Cup winner this year. I still think it can happen, but the last two games have been troubling. I will always look at a goalkeeper first, Jarry hasn’t been good lately. I don’t want to blame it all on him, I watch that club’s penalty in Pittsburgh and it was putrid. As 28th in the NHL, they allowed another goal last night on that. Is this team really missing John Marino and Teddy Blueger or is there more to why the penalty was so poor?
Rob Rossi: Losing Teddy Blueger shorthanded certainly hurt them, but you know we heard all offseason that this would be a tough team to play against from Brian Burke and Ron Hextall, and frankly, management doesn’t didn’t make it difficult to play. versus. They’re easy to beat right now, that penalty is a tire fire engulfed in a chasm right now, I mean they don’t do things that even bad teams do. You see four guys doing different things on the ice, I don’t know if Mike Vellucci, their assistant coach who runs the penalty kill, understands that or if it’s just a personnel thing. But, they don’t do anything good on that penalty kill, they’ve allowed a goal in all but two games this year. They’re hovering around 70% and you combine that with the fact that the power play has only scored because the talent they can put on the ice doesn’t seem (to have) any cohesion. Special teams have been, if there’s a putrid level below, I’d put it back there. They’re a team that I agree can have a long run in the playoffs, but they have to win this special teams battle and they’re not doing it right now. I don’t know if Mike Sullivan has the answer.
Frank Seravalli: A fire engulfed in a chasm, that’s how you know Rob Rossi is back. But, I want to ask the doomsday question, what if the Penguins don’t come out of this soon? There don’t seem to be many options on the table that Ron Hextall can turn into. Mike Sullivan just signed a huge extension with the Penguins this offseason, he’s clearly not going anywhere and I believe he’s now one of the highest paid coaches in the league. Then you have a situation with a roster that’s mostly locked longer term, that’s older, what can they do to get out of it if they get to Defcon-4?
Rob Rossi: I don’t know what they could do in terms of personnel Frank. I mean, I guess if you’re FSG, the Fenway Sports Group that owns the Penguins, you might consider changing management, but I don’t know if they want to. But as you said, Sullivans’ contract makes him a non-issue in terms of a coaching change. Not only do they have older players on long-term contracts, but many of those players have movement clauses. Crosby, Malkin and Letang don’t have movement clauses, and guys like Rust have limited movement clauses. So I think you could see them exploring a trade with Brian Dumoulin if they can get somebody bitten. I think this would be one of those room-shaking trades, but they just need to play better and be more consistent.
I know it sounds like a cliché, « You just need to play better », but that’s really what it means to them. You see the talent in this team and yes they are older but you knew at the start of this season that the older guys were going to have to carry a heavy load here because frankly the last six is insufficient for a team that aspires to the Stanley Cup. So they have to be too heavy up front, and they’re going to have to play too heavy up front. The question is, can they find a way to work their ceiling in order to get Blueger back and even make incremental changes by keeping some youngsters in the bottom six lineup? They only had 22 guys on the active roster when things were going well for them and that’s how it will be for now. Unless they’re sticking their heads out, you know where I don’t know what the Penguins can do about it.
You can watch the full episode here…