Penguins Roundtable, Question #3

Tony Ferrante oragnized a roundtable of Pens bloggers over the summer to discuss the Penguins and he’s at it again.  This is the second installment and Tony was gracious enough to allow us to participate once again, one-third of the way in to the season.  Below are the list of bloggers that are participating in the second installment:

Sean Leahy (SL) – Going Five Hole, Chris Wassel (CW) – The Program, FrankD (FD) – Pensburgh, Stephanie (ST) – The Steel City Sports Fan (Penguins Edition), Hooks Orpik (HO) – The Sweater Ted, Greg Wyshynski (GW) – Puck Daddy, Yahoo! Sports Blogs, Chris Gates (CG) – Pittsburgh Puck Talk, Seth Rorabaugh (SR) – Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Empty Netters, Matt Bodenschatz (MB) – Faceoff Factor, Brian Metzer (BM) – Hockeybuzz.com, Jesse Marshall (JM) – Faceoff Factor, Pensblog Staff (PB) – The Pensblog, Tony Ferrante (TF) – Kukla’s Korner/The Confluence.

3.  This team has had significant problems holding leads this season.  Do these Penguins have the fortitude to dig deep and play a 60-minute game the way they did during most games during the second half of last season ??  What has to change in order for them to do it ??
(SL) The mentality in the third period needs to change from playing dump and chase to puck possession, getting the puck in deep and tying it up along the boards.  At this point, with all the games lost late this season, why not turn into the 1995 New Jersey Devils and just clamp down defensively?

(CW) These are not the same Penguins as last year but as they get healthier.  I do think they will be able to play with that fortitude.  Simply put, getting guys like Whiney and Gonchar and Fleury back in there will help.  Also, Fleury has to come back on fire obviously.  The other thing I have noticed is this; Therrien has to get this team back to playing good fundamentals.  That has been lacking lately and going 4-5-1 in their last 10 has not helped.  The key right now, coaching and better play!

(FD) On the flip side however they’ve also had impressive routs to turn things around late in the game.  This team often poses as some freak of nature that will either leave you disappointed as you watch them drop their lead or ecstatic as they rebound back with three or four-goal third period runs.  I don’t think much has to change in terms of staffing the lines, but a lot has to change in terms of chemistry.  It’s obvious they can make it happen out there late in the game, but they all just have to be on the same page.  Sitting back and holding off the other team’s attack in not the Pens’ forte.

(ST) This team has not played a full 60-minute game once this season.  I truly think they know what they need to do but have not yet reached the point where they are motivated to do it (which, I guess is just a nice way to say they are being lazy).  They need to go to the net more, and have more bodies in front of the net to create more scoring chances.  They are not capitalizing on their powerplay opportunities (especially when they are 16th in the league).  A recent example of this is Saturday’s game against Philadelphia who had more shots on goal being short-handed than the Pens did having the advantage.

(HO) I think the Penguins are just meshing right now, kind of figuring out how to play with each other.  A lot of “glue” guys over the past couple seasons (Colby Armstrong, Jarkko Ruutu, Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone, Adam Hall, Georges Laraque etc) have moved on.  As all the new guys (Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Matt Cooke, Mike Zigomanis, etc) get assimilated into the style the Penguins play and the systems they run, the results should become a little more even.  It’s just taking a little while to get on the same page, and that’s to be expected.

(GW) Thatʼs just a function of this wacky parity-filled League weʼre living in these days, where leads are about as safe as your daughters around Max Talbot. But if youʼre talking about the Penguins, letʼs see what this team does with a healthy blue line before assuming they donʼt get coffee for not closing.

(CG) There is enough talent of this team to be the most dominant group in the Eastern Conference.  The problem is that a good chunk of that talent has been dealing with injuries.  Once Gonchar and Whitney get back to playing every night I believe the Penguins will have an easier time protecting the leads they build.  It has been so hard to exhibit any consistency and I blame that on a lack of defensive leadership.  There is no defensive pairing that seems to be truly comfortable together.  Having two defenders back on the roster that can possess the puck as well as Whit and Gonch will help tremendously.

(SR) Certainly. They played 60 minutes in New Jersey last week but lost. Seems to me a complete effort is something that comes from attitude or how you approach the game. Leadership, whether that be Crosby or Therrien, needs to address it.

(MB) Of course.  The first half of the season is a totally different type of game than the second half.  The fact that the Penguins have the fortitude to comeback in games they clearly should not win indicates that they indeed do have what it takes.  As for what needs to change, I think it’s just a desperation thing.  The more desperate they are to win, the better they will be at protecting the lead.  It will come with time.

(BM) They definitely have the ability to play a full 60-minute game, but they have not done it consistently thus far. Their struggles in getting the puck out of their own zone have played a big factor in blowing leads throughout the season. That problem should work itself out once they get Whitney and Gonchar back in the fold. Each of those players possesses the ability to make a crisp tape to tape break out pass, something that has been lacking all year long. They also can carry the puck up ice, taking the pressure off of the forwards who have had to go deep into their own end to get the biscuit to frequently. Getting those two players back will also upgrade the defense as a whole, which will eliminate some of the mistakes that have been being made.

(JM) I think losing the leads has been an issue of letting our foot off of the proverbial pedal. Sometimes offense is the best defense. The Penguins, when taking an early lead, have abandoned the cycle and puck possession game in lieu of a tentative style of offense that features forced turnovers and odd man rushes for the other team. Michel Therrien has accused them of playing on their heels and I’d have to agree. I look to the recent Rangers loss in a shootout as a model of how the Penguins should try and finish a game. Unfortunately, that night, the bounces just didn’t go our way.

(PB) It’s just the way the season has been.  If they were in a deep hole because of it, we’d be concerned.  But for every lead they’ve blown, they’ve also had some nice third-period comebacks.

(TF) It’s all about the mindset.  If you aren’t aggressive in today’s NHL, and subconsciously you’re playing not to lose rather than to win, you’re in deep kimchee.  And that applies to everyone, from the defense not clearing the puck out of their zone, to the forwards not playing the body on the forecheck.  Hopefully it doesn’t come back to bite the Pens in the butt-ocks, but those precious points they’ve thrown away could end up being vital.

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