Gameday 65: Can’t Lose Game(s)

It’s getting to the point where they’re no fun any more.
Are they sorry?
Sometimes it hurts so badly we must cry out loud.
We’re not lonely.

Ahhhh, the Good ole Days … better times.

The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped their fourth game in a row to the New York Islanders in maddening and increasingly familiar fashion, a 4-3 overtime loss wherein the Penguins held a 3-1 lead with about five and a half minutes left in the game. Then some no-name with 14 total points in 72 career games over almost six NHL seasons got the Islanders within one, and then the usual suspects, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, completed the comeback for New York. The win gave the Islanders some much-wanted breathing room in the Wild Card race and kept them (as of this writing) within five points of the Rangers for third in the Metropolitan Division. Although Pittsburgh was able to salvage a point out of their mess, they really could have used the full two points which slipped through their fingers, as well as a confidence boost against a team that they cannot seem to solve of late.

Once again we are left questioning what this Pittsburgh Penguins team is seeking to accomplish this season. It’s been a season of hills and valleys, with the biggest hill barely visible in the rear-view mirror at this point, as the valleys have been deeper than any we’ve experienced in the last almost twenty years. It wouldn’t be so bad if the expectations weren’t set so high at the beginning of the season and reiterated throughout the year; if this was a rebuilding team, these results wouldn’t be unexpected and maybe we would be satisfied with a point against a playoff team. But we have been told several times that the goal is to win the Stanley Cup. With the way things are going right now, I’m not confident that the Penguins will even win a playoff game, let alone make the playoffs. They have eighteen games left on the calendar, and maybe they’ll hit a rhythm and head into the playoffs in a more favorable matchup. Stranger things have happened!


In better circumstances, a game like tonight’s should be a low-stress contest, against a Philadelphia Flyers team that is only not the worst team in the division because the worst team is twelve points behind them A confidently-better Penguins team would be able to cruise through the Flyers who have no hope in their present-day circumstances and, in the wake of yesterday’s firing of their general manager, Chuck Fletcher, probably the next year or so as well. This isn’t to overlook the fact that Pittsburgh is 21-5-5 this season against non-playoff teams, which amounts to an excellent 124 point pace over 82 games. But the absence of confidence is the problem with these Penguins, as there is seemingly no knowing from game to game just what we’re going to get from them. As a result, every game from here on, no matter the opponent, holds critical importance to the final result for Pittsburgh. It didn’t have to be this way.