Atrocious, deficient, brutal – These are all words that could be used to describe how the Pittsburgh Penguins played the first fifteen minutes of Sunday afternoon’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Just 24 hours removed from an embarrassing 4-0 loss at the hands of Philadelphia, the Penguins came out flat and played timid and scared. They were being outhit, outshot and took three horrible penalties, two of which were retaliatory. Before you knew it, the scoreboard read 3-0 in favor of Philly.
The Penguins are certainly in a rut due to injuries; it’s no shock that missing Chris Kunitz and James Neal would have negative effects on their play, but there is still no excuse for lazy penalties.
If Marc-Andre Fleury wouldn’t have stood on his head for the first half of the opening period, the Penguins could have easily been down by six or seven goals going into the locker room.
Head coach Dan Bylsma eventually was forced to pull Fleury from the game after his third goal against in order to try and spark the bench. The Penguins did play much better in the final two periods, but sometimes the hole you dug is just too deep to crawl out of which was the case for the Penguins.
Special teams have been a huge reason why the Pens are still on top of the Metropolitan division, but on Sunday they were completely ineffective on both the power play and the penalty kill.
With the score 3-2, the Penguins got the man advantage with a chance to tie the game. From there, Deryk Engelland caught an edge entering the zone, which sprung the Flyers on a 2-on-1. Matt Read blistered a snapshot over the shoulder of Jeff Zatkoff, and what could have been a tie game was all of a sudden a shorthanded goal against and a two-goal lead for Philadelphia.
If you need to know how bad the Penguins’ injury situation is, the fact that Engelland is getting power play time pretty much tells the story.
The Penguins also gave up two power plays goals to Wayne Simmonds, who was left wide open in front of the net throughout the first period. Simmonds leads the team in power play goals, so it’s no secret that he is the guy who the Flyers try to get the puck to with the man advantage. Yet the Penguins’ defensemen continued to puck watch and allow Simmonds to have all the space he wanted in front of the net.
Simmonds’ second power play goal of the game, which made the score 3-0, should have been easily prevented by Rob Scuderi, who was caught playing far too high in the zone. Even down a man, there’s never a reason to allow someone to have a free lane to the net, which Simmonds took advantage of and eventually beat Fleury after gathering his own rebound.
Dealing with injuries is difficult, but if the Penguins are going to get through this stretch they need to find a way to come out of the gates flying. As seen on Sunday, doing the exact opposite doesn’t usually work out too well.