The Pittsburgh Penguins Turning into Jekyll and Hyde of NHL

By Jeff Ekiert
Kris Letang
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

During the shortened 2013 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins pieced together some nice extensive winning streaks including their 15-game streak throughout the month of March. It was truly a blessing for the club seeing how they had to do so with Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin out of the lineup for a handful of those games.

This year, the Penguins are just lucky enough to be in the worst division in the NHL as they sit at the top of the Metropolitan Division. Going into Tuesday, they have a five point lead over the second place Washington Capitals with a record of 15-9-1. Sadly enough, if Pittsburgh found itself playing in the Western Conference instead of the shaky East, the playoffs would be an uphill battle. They would rank ninth, just a few points out of the last wild card spot.

Last season, the Penguins were one of the most feared teams in hockey. This year, despite all of their talent they cannot seem to find a true identity.

What really has been an ongoing problem for the Penguins this season has been consistency. They win a couple, then lose three straight yet still manage to lead their division. Granted some teams like that are scary to play against just because they can get hot at any given time. I have seen crazier things happen in sports.

But the inconsistency can very soon begin to take a turn for the worst if Pittsburgh cannot get on a winning track.

Their biggest flaw is this; when they are good, they are really good … and when they’re bad, they are really, really bad. Instead of the two-headed monster, it is more like a two-faced squad.

With more injuries being announced over the last couple days (Tanner Glass and Beau Bennett), the Penguins have been relying on their depth in the minors. Their young studs like Brian Gibbons and Matt D’Agostini are going to have to play big roles down the stretch to help fill the voids.

When analyzing the losses this team has suffered, they may not look all that bad on paper. But when losing games 4-3 and 3-2, it all comes down to execution. For Pittsburgh, it is usually not a case of one missed opportunity — there are numerous chances and numerous turnovers. The most subtle plays of passing instead of shooting, bad penalties, capitalizing on key power plays, turnovers and a lot of faceoffs lost in the defensive zone … all of these seem to play a role in why the Penguins did not win that specific game.

The thing that separates good teams from very good teams is mastering those elements of the game night in and night out. Sometimes, you do tend to face a certain defense or a red-hot goaltender who will steal the game for their respective clubs (Pittsburgh’s 1-0 loss against the Colorado Avalanche last month) but you cannot use it as an excuse every time you lose.

For a while, it seemed like teams were starting to figure out Dan Bylsma and his coaching antics. Those teams who the Penguins defeat may not have gotten their hands on the three-minute DVD at Family Video titled “You Too Can Beat Pittsburgh’s One-Dimensional System” (not a real movie, that was my attempt at sarcastic comedy- so laugh).

In order for the Penguins to achieve success, they need to find a rhythm instead of playing sub-par hockey resulting in a mini three-game winning streak, then lose four of their next six. It is only two months into the season, but it is only a matter of time before the New York Rangers and the Capitals start making a B-line.

Jeff Ekiert is the Pittsburgh Penguins/NHL beat writer for Like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @jmekiert and add him to your Google account.

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