Pittsburgh Penguins: Struggles Can Be Linked to Predictability

By Jeff Hartman
Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins are slumping. Theories abound in regards to why the Pens are not only failing to score goals, but more importantly not winning games. For once, Marc Andre Fleury is not a reason for the Penguins’ struggles, but if you look close enough, you will see the main reason for the Penguins lackluster performances in the past few games. Plain and simple, the Penguins are predictable.

Pittsburgh has a near arrogance about themselves and their style of play. The theory remains that the Penguins will take their game to their opponent, and that adjustments will never be necessary.

This has been the same theme since 2009 when the Penguins last won the Stanley Cup. When Michel Therrien was the bench boss for the Penguins and was fired, Dan Bylsma was brought in to bring a new philosophy to the team. He was successful in this change and it resulted in the Penguins’ third Stanley Cup in franchise history.

The only issue is that since Bylsma has come to the staff in 2009, nothing has changed. The Penguins are the same predictable team day in and day out. Obviously, there have been minor adjustments, but Bylsma’s inability to adapt and change has led to playoff losses time and time again.

Take the 2012-13 Eastern Conference Finals where the Penguins were swept by the Boston Bruins. It took two losses before Bylsma finally thought what the team was doing simply wasn’t working. By the time adjustments were finally made, it was too late and the season was over.

Go back further in the same playoffs against the New York Islanders and you will see a team that was lucky to escape that round of the playoffs. The Islanders’ defensive trap absolutely had the Penguins reeling, but their inexperience ended their season.

Bylsma has his weaknesses, as do all coaches, but some of his are absolutely glaring. The amount of times that you hear announcers saying that the visiting team in Pittsburgh has been getting the best of the matchups is outrageous. There is no way that should ever happen in your home arena because of the team getting the “last change”.

This isn’t all on Bylsma, but his ineptitude reaches down to the players and staff. When you team’s best grinder is also the best player in the world, Sidney Crosby, then that is a problem. Long gone are Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy and Max Talbot who can not only change the momentum of a game, but also score goals.

Bylsma and Ray Shero‘s obsession with offensive defensemen has left the team with a lack of grit and identity offensively. When players like Crosby are forced to go into the dirty areas of the ice, it not only limits his skill offensively, but increases his chance of injury.

The Penguins are predictable. You know what you are going to get every day: the same stretch passes, the same face-off plays and even the same power play formulas that fail repeatedly. This predictability falls on the head coach and his staff. If nothing changes, then the Penguins’ season might become more mediocre than outstanding. When it comes to game philosophy and adjustments, change is good.

Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also   contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz

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