They say hitting is contagious in baseball. Once a couple of batters get consecutive hits, it somehow builds momentum down the rest of the lineup throughout the game. Well, you could say the same concept goes in the hockey world.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have always been known to be one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL. For the past several seasons, they have posed a threat like none other with the talent and depth they have up and down the lineup.
So as one looks at the score sheet from the last three games in which Pittsburgh has gone 0-3, it is a mystery to how this team has managed only three goals. With the return of James Neal and Beau Bennett, things have taken a turn for the worse instead of the better. The Penguins were supposed to score more, right?
Not necessarily. What made this team so good in recent years has been their secondary scoring. Players like Jordan Staal, Ryan Malone, Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke would contribute, thus tipping over the first domino. This made it easier for the elite players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to do their thing, especially in the close nail-biters. They do not have that secondary scoring this season — at least not as much as in years past.
Certain guys need to start showing up on the score sheet for Pittsburgh in order to get out of this drought.
Brandon Sutter, needs to play better on both sides of the ice. He has not registered a single point in his last four games and was absolutely rocked in the faceoff circle in the loss against the Blues (5-for-17). Yeah, he is no Staal on the back-check, but he needs to start winning more face-offs and patrolling the third line better than he has been.
Jussi Jokinen has shown consistency throughout this season. He has scored a point in five of his last six games and with Neal back in the lineup, it may be beneficial to drop him to the third line to help the slumping Sutter. All Malkin needs on the second unit is Neal, and now that the duo is back together, Jayson Megna should be called back up and placed on Malkin’s opposite wing.
Another player who has failed to score since the eighth grade picnic is Pascal Dupuis. It was reported that he has been ailing with an undisclosed injury, but he hasn’t missed any significant time so it cannot be that serious. Dupuis only has two goals to his name this season and has not found the back of the net in his last 12 games. That is bad when you play on the line with the best player in the world.
The question still hangs in the air and there is truly no answer at this point. It is not like Pittsburgh is not trying to get pucks to the net, because they are. Those who tend to blame the power play are in the wrong also; they rank seventh in the league with the man-advantage.
The Penguins will eventually snap out of it. As I said, it only takes one player to score an early goal, and the rest will follow. Right now, it is just a matter of bad bounces and playing some red hot teams who just can’t lose. Heck, their power play looked their best in a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche last month — Jean-Sebastien Giguere was just that darn good.
Maybe a meeting with the Central Division’s worst Nashville Predators is just what Bylsma’s squad needs on Friday.