There are only 10 games left in the regular season for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and they have not looked good lately. I know it, the coaching staff knows it, and the players know it.
Led by veterans Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi, the Penguins held a players-only meeting after their devastating 3-2 loss at the hands of the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.
The Penguins have looked sluggish in the last few games, but the veteran-led speech was most likely due to consistent showing of poor discipline that has been on display during the last few weeks.
Phoenix’s game-winning goal was due to another retaliation penalty by Penguins forward Jussi Jokinen in the offensive zone in the midst of a 2-2 game. Jokinen was ran in the corner by Antoine Vermette, and after the puck went back toward the Penguins’ end, Jokinen two-handed Vermette in the back of the leg. There was no reason for it, and the Penguins paid for it when Mikkel Boedker beat Marc-Andre Fleury short side as Vermette came out of the box.
With just under a minute left in the game and the Penguins pressing hard, James Neal took a slashing penalty and all but ended the hopes for a late goal that would have sent it into overtime.
This hasn’t just occurred in one game, it has been a consistent frustration through the Penguins injury-laced post-Olympic season.
The power play that used to seem automatic has stalled completely. The penalty kill that used to be ranked first in the league has given up nine power play goals in the 12 games since the team returned from Sochi.
Orpik is on the last year of his contract with the Penguins, and is one of only a handful of players still on the Penguins’ roster from their 2009 Stanley Cup team. It’s good to see the vets standing up and keeping the coaching staff and media out of it.
Sometimes, it just has to be left up to the players.