Penguin Scruff

Even Sunday night’s 6-3 drubbing of the Bolts might not be enough to cheer Adam up. His Pens have been skidding, beset by numerous injuries and lackluster play. They host the Canes (Hi Jeff!) on Tuesday and will be looking to make it three in a row. Despite our teams’ rivalries, we adore Adam, he put the scruffy in SCRUFF. Even better, it looks like the Pittsburgh gay team’s roster is starting to fill.

“Had the Penguins not defeated the Florida Panthers on Friday night, I’m really not sure I’d feel like writing anything at all about them. A six-game skid where scoring goals was harder to come by than parking spot at Whole Foods on a Saturday afternoon was utterly painful. God, was it painful. The trend seemed to be to outshoot and outplay the opponent for most of the first period (and probably score the first goal, actually), then have a mental lapse, give up a goal, and never recover. I don’t know how many games in a row they scored first and wound up losing, but it was noticeable enough to be infuriating.

And, of course, I would miss the win because I was busy watching Meryl Streep become Margaret Thatcher. (Side note: I’m really glad I told Mike to buy tickets for it on Fandango because I was worried it’d be sold out, as if we were still living in Chelsea or something.

Yeah, that place was empty except for a handful of gays, including a creep behind me who started snoring and then messaged me on Scruff asking what I thought about the film.) 

I had the misfortune of attending the Penguins/Rangers tilt and got to see that pattern play itself out again before my buzzed eyes.

Whipping Boy, Paul Martin

I think the Rangers had 2 shots in the first period before one lapse allowed Brad Richards to bury one alone in front of the net, and despite having outshot them and scoring the first goal, you just kind of knew that was when the wheels would start coming off.

And, imagine, that’s exactly what happened. Perhaps the crowning jewel of the night was when Marc-André Fleury completely whiffed on the puck and the Rangers capitalized, and the entirety of section 218 still found a way to blame the Pens’ fan base’s favorite whipping boy, Paul Martin, prompting me to purchase his shirt immediately following the game.

What has really been worrisome is the lackluster, sloppy play that has, at times, felt totally uninspired and flat-out lazy. The sense of urgency to which we’d become accustomed went M.I.A., and with it, nights in the win column. You almost got the impression that the Penguins were waiting for someone to save the day rather than picking themselves up off the floor to achieve the desired results. But who’s going to save them, really, other than the guys on the ice, whoever they might be on that given night?

Jordan Staal

As I’ve said before, there’s this holding pattern in which the team has been locked since last year, and I don’t think they’re mentally able to fully shake it off. That holding pattern is, of course, due to the folks in the press box who are injured, and the guys on the ice are left to make do until they can come back. (Note: Come on, y’all, you didn’t think you’d get a Penguins post without an injury update, right?) The injury carousel of ridiculous proportions picked up a new rider the night of the Rangers game in Jordan Staal, who will be bouncing up and down on that horse (oh, Lord, I wish) for 4 to 6 weeks. James Neal was initially diagnosed with a broken foot that was scheduled to put him out for “weeks,” but some magical-ass MRI revealed it was only a bone bruise.

Whatever X-Ray machine was used gets a side-eye from me, and I don’t fully understand how that was possible, but hey — I most certainly am not a physician, okaaaaay? Paul Martin got sick and missed a little time (much to the delight of those ignant h8ers), and Dustin Jeffrey only returned to the lineup against the Capitals. While Martin was out sick, his replacement, Simon Despres, went out with a lower-body injury and didn’t return (yeah, that’s not the first time the replacement has also gotten hurt).

Still missing are, of course, two of the best players in the league in Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang. Sergei Gonchar, after his Senators walked all over our sad asses, accurately pointed out that you just can’t replace players like that, and the more time passes without them lacing up, the more the depth of that statement’s veracity reveals itself.

But the hardest part of the injuries to Crosby and Letang has to be the inability to concretely point to a return time. It’s one thing knowing that you’ll miss the services of Jordan Staal for a set number of weeks. It’s an extremely different situation when you see Crosby in a suit and tie and having absolutely no idea when he’ll be back on the ice. I know this has been discussed to death, and I’m not sure I can offer anything particularly insightful that hasn’t already been voiced (I can’t), but I’d imagine that it’s got to be mentally taxing to have that level of uncertainty hanging over you day in and day out. Hell, not knowing who’s showing up in my draft league is already a pain.

With that uncertainty comes the awkward territory of finding a solution. I mean, do you go out and try to put a Band-Aid on the problem by trading away potential assets? Do you wait it out and hope for the best? I really don’t envy Ray Shero these days, because those are decisions I just don’t want to make. And I think people were content with waiting things out until we hit that 6-game skid and fell to 9th place in the conference. Now the heat’s been turned up a little and people are demanding some sort of action, mostly in the form of shipping out Paul Martin for a scoring presence up front.

On that note, one of my favorite suggestions that I’ve seen running strangely rampant (thanks, Twitter) has been to trade Martin to Edmonton in return for Ales Hemsky, which makes me giggle like there’s no tomorrow. I can’t think of any better way to fix the Penguins than to give up one of the most solid defensemen in the league (Team USA didn’t even announce its Olympic roster in 2010 until the last-minute because they weren’t sure if he could play…) for a guy who is always (ALWAYS. ALWAYS. ALWAYS.) hurt and is way more of a passer than a finisher. I really can’t.

Seriously, hearing Penguins fans’ solutions for their current woes makes me want to rip out my hair more than comments on a Yahoo! news article. And like comments on a Yahoo! article, I know I shouldn’t read them because they’re going to infuriate me and make me lose the little remaining faith in humanity I have, but I can’t help myself. And then my boyfriend has to listen to me bitch endlessly and snap at everything, which makes it fun for the whole family.

But, yeah, what do you do? Where do we go from here? Even with a win last night in Sunrise, Florida (which, okay, what an awful, trashy place), we’re in 9th place, just behind the Curious Case of the Washington Capitals. Remember a couple of years back when the Penguins were in 10th place around this time of year, then they booted the coach and they won the Cup? Yeah, I don’t expect that to happen again, mostly because I don’t think Bylsma’s going anywhere and we’re not a full lineup that’s just underachieving. Ray Shero just came out and said that the Penguins are making the playoffs, and I think that was a little kick to the booty for the players to get their shit together.

"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night"

Even with a ragtag bunch, this is a team that’s better than 9th in the conference, provided they stick to their guns and play their game. I don’t think there needs to be any radical personnel adjustment; I think the adjustment needs to be mental. And we’ll see what happens, you know? My seat belt is buckled due to turbulence, but hopefully the captain can turn off the Fasten Seat-Belt sign sooner than later.

I still wouldn’t mind if we got rid of Tyler Kennedy, though.”

Whether Kennedy stays or goes, follow Adam on Twitter: @adamkno

About adamkno

Pittsburgh Penguins. Airports. Pilsner Urquell. (Gay) Hockey. Pens contributor @PuckBuddys. Maďarský guláš. Français. Português.
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5 Responses to Penguin Scruff

  1. Just when I thought I was out… Geno was GENO and the Pens swept a series in Florida. The Ottawa loss last Tuesday was the low point for me personally. It wasn’t the listless, uninspired performance by the Penguins, but the fact that such a performance wasn’t surprising at all. This stretch had me contemplating the direction of the team going forward – was it time to shake up the core group like Philly had done with the Richards/Carter deals this summer; swapping top-end, proven skill for an injection of youth and attitude? Now, in less than a week, that scenario seems preposterous. My expectations for this team haven’t risen back to winning the Stanley Cup, of course. But Sid just skated, Letang was cleared for contact, and big tests in the Rangers and Blues are on the docket, so…talk to me again in a week? I’m usually not so impetuous as a fan, but it’s fitting this season that even the most measured of Pens fans would lose all perspective on timetables.

    • Adam says:

      As is tradition, I completely hear what you’re saying. And even in the Tampa game, things looked great until a lazy stretch of play allowed Tampa to erase a 3-goal lead in a matter of minutes. Then, yes, Malkin took over and put a stop to that mess.

      I’m personally not an advocate for making such radical, large-scale changes like the ones you’ve mentioned in your comment. Like I said, this is really just dealing with a smattering of serious injuries and not coming from a place where the team isn’t performing to expectations. And, much like you, while I don’t see us returning to Cup form, I realistically think we’ve got a shot at any seed between 4 and 7. I’d frankly be shocked if we didn’t snag one of them.

      Also, that Ottawa game sucked. Truly sucked.

  2. david says:

    DONT PANIC…. js…

  3. Adam says:

    Nobody’s hitting the panic button, David; my intent wasn’t to indicate that it was time to do that.

    Rather, the point I was trying to make was that a 6-game skid really turned up the heat on both management (re: what to do about Crosby, the way they’re handling information about it/him) and the players (re: start playing to win, girls). I don’t think you could watch those games without a pit in your stomach because you already knew how it was going to play out. Go up by 1, let that slip away, and only get your game back together late in the 3rd when the game was out of reach.

    The Florida games were important because the team played with a cohesive, palpable sense of urgency in Sunrise, and they didn’t let the game get away in Tampa. In large part, we have Evgeni Malkin to thank for that. But if we can tally 2 more points tonight against Carolina, we’re moving in the right direction again.

    It’s been an up-and-down season in a lot of ways, and the play of the Penguins has continued down that same path. But a 6-game skid followed by a 2- or 3-game win streak just isn’t going to cut it. Hell, the way the conference is shaping up, back-to-back losses of any kind are pretty much going to need to be avoided.

    And here’s hoping they can pull it off.

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