These two games have not gone as planned.
Well the past two Pittsburgh Penguins games certainly did not go as planned.
After going 12-2-1 in their previous 15 games, a stretch where they allowed only 24 totals goals, the Penguins surrendered 15 goals in back-to-back losses to the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Even worse, all 15 of those goals came in just five periods of hockey. My brain tells me that is three goals per period, and nothing about that is good.
For perspective, the Pens only allowed 15 goals in the previous nine games combined, and allowed more than two goals in an entire game just two different times. Never more than three goals. Since the start of the 2015-16 season the Penguins only had eight games where they allowed at least seven goals. Then they go and let it happen in back-to-back games.
It is also nothing to be too overly concerned about, mostly because I am going to chalk a lot of this up to “stuff happens.”
I know this is not a good excuse, and I know you do not want to get into a habit of looking at things this way, but I am not in the coaches room or locker room so I can have this opinion. But they were due for a couple of clunkers. Before Sunday’s game in Boston the Penguins were getting a level of goaltending from Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith that was at an elite level. They may be a good goalie duo. They may be good enough for the Penguins to compete for and win a championship. But they were never going to maintain the save percentage they had been rolling with over the past month.
Seasons are full of peaks and valleys where teams and players produce at an absurdly good level, and then just as quickly produce at an absurdly bad level. Winning streaks, losing streaks, goal scoring streaks, goal scoring droughts. A season is never a constant, steady line. Reference again the eight games since 2015 where the Penguins allowed at least seven goals. In two of those instances they happened within two weeks of each other, including one situation where it happened twice in a week. When it rains, it tends to pour. The past two games were the Penguins hitting one of those valleys.
The penalty kill which had been playing very well, suddenly fell apart.
The power play reverted back to its bad habit of giving up shorthanded chances.
There were a handful of defensive breakdowns that the goaltending did not bail out.
There was also an insane element of bad luck on Tuesday as the Rangers scored three or four goals directly off of Penguins players. That is not the sort of thing that is going to happen every night.
Just a perfect storm of chaos leading to issues. Especially when you take into account the injury situation the team is still dealing with. They have played great with all of the absences lately, but when you are without four regulars and lose another one during the game (John Marino) it is only a matter of time until that presence is noticed.
Still, at the risk of sounding completely outrageous, I do not think the story of these past two games is as bad as the scoreboard. The overall performance in terms of shots against, chances against, and the chances the Penguins created was mostly fine. I thought on Tuesday the Penguins actually had the BETTER of the chances for most of the game. It just so happened that the Rangers converted on nearly every chance they got as the Penguins were guilty of the occasional big mistake, and on the wrong end of some puck luck.
Did they play good enough to win either game? Probably not.
Did they play bad enough to give up 15 goals in five periods? Also probably not.
These past two games were the confluence of an injured team, playing a couple of off games, with some bad luck sprinkled in to produce two very ugly results on the scoreboard.
They get a chance to redeem themselves on Thursday against the same Rangers team. If they come out and give up five or six goals again, then maybe it might be time to start getting a little worried. But if they are able to bounce back and play a clean, structured game, I am going to just chalk these two games up to the normal valley you sometimes enter over the course of a season.