Gameday 40: Anybody Got a Rabbit’s Foot?

Well…the good news is that the Pittsburgh Penguins don’t often give up fifteen goals in two games. Just off the top of my head, I had to think back to Games 2 and 3 of the 2012 Playoffs when the Philadelphia Flyers scored sixteen goals, only to be trounced 10-3 in Game 4. Nevertheless, the Penguins lost that series to the Flyers in six games, but ultimately the point is that, at least in that one instance I can recall, the Penguins follow up such thrashings by returning the favor. So, optimism!

Pessimism: the Penguins are still without Evgeni Malkin. They will continue to be without Kasperi Kapanen and Brandon Tanev. They might have Teddy Blueger back, but I don’t believe he’ll contribute much offense without Tanev. They seemingly dodged a bullet with John Marino, but the story nonetheless continues to be the health of the Penguins getting in the way of success.

They had a good run of squeezing offense out of the bottom of the depth chart, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the well is drying up on that end and the top of the chart can’t keep being relied on to produce such as they have in the last few games.

More pessimism: the New York Islanders made the first big move of trade deadline week – and really of the whole season to this point – by acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils. They kind of had to make a serious move with Anders Lee out for the rest of the season, but they went and added two guys instead of one. The price that they paid hardly matters at the moment, especially because the point is that they got better, and the Penguins can’t stay healthy long enough to know if they should actually make a move or if they can manage to make a serious playoff run with a healthy version of its current roster. With the Islanders and the Washington Capitals in front of them in the standings, right now it stands to reason that if Pittsburgh is to make the playoffs, the Islanders are a likely foe at one point or another. Let us ignore the last time the Penguins met either team in the playoffs.

As I said in the postgame of Monday’s 8-4 loss against the Rangers, if the Penguins didn’t at least look like they were trying to win games, I would feel a lot more cynical about their chances. But at even strength, Pittsburgh out-shot and out-chanced New York by double. They had almost twice as many scoring chances-for and high-danger chances-for. Nevertheless, the finishing wasn’t there and the goaltending wasn’t there, and the result was the second-worst PDO% of the season for the Penguins, the seventh-worst in the last three seasons. Bad games happen, but they often happen either because of poor quality or bad luck, and I’d say it hurts less because of bad luck, which is exactly what happened on Monday. Let’s just hope that the Penguins can avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season.