The Pittsburgh Penguins came out flying against the Carolina Hurricanes, but sloppy play and stellar goaltending from Anton Khudobin led to the Penguins’ demise as they lost 4-1. The Penguins should be upset and embarrassed by the way they played Tuesday night, but let’s not overreact to the result.
The Penguins were just bad. It happens.
It’s difficult to watch a non-playoff team like the Hurricanes come into Pittsburgh and take away two points, but the good news for Penguins fans is that the two points up for grabs were pretty much irrelevant as far as the standings are concerned.
Sidney Crosby picked up his 100th point of the season with an assist on Chris Kunitz‘s goal in the first period, and he continues to amaze with his play. There’s no question that he is the favorite for the Art Ross Memorial Trophy this season and he is pulling away from the rest of the field in the race for the scoring title.
Crosby has never played a full 82-game season and it’s the first time that he has eclipsed the 100-point mark since 2010. Injuries have continued to take Crosby out of action, so the best thing that Penguins fans can take out of this loss to the Hurricanes is the fact that the best player in the world is still healthy and playing well.
The Penguins haven’t used injuries as an excuse all season, but it needs to be remembered that they’ve been playing without Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang or Paul Martin, which are three guys that all play huge roles in their lineup. Their special teams has especially suffered due to the trio’s absence.
The Penguins are going to clinch the Metropolitan Division very soon – it would be one of the biggest collapses in recent memory if they don’t – and it will be interesting to see what head coach Dan Bylsma does with Crosby. It may not be the best for Crosby to go into the playoffs rusty, but the worst possible scenario is that someone hits him up high and his book of head injuries adds another chapter. It wouldn’t be surprising if Crosby was a healthy scratch for one of the final games in the season if their playoff seeding has already been determined.
The Penguins only have six games remaining before the postseason begins and they need to find a way to play better than they did Tuesday night against the Hurricanes – their effort, especially in the second period, was embarrassing – but at least No. 87 is still putting points on the board.
They ran into a hot goaltender in Khudobin, which will happen from time to time, but the real question is how will the Penguins respond? We’ll get our answer Thursday night when the Pens travel to Winnipeg to take on the Winnipeg Jets, which is another non-playoff team that the Penguins should be able to dismantle.