December 21, 2007
For the second time in less than a week, the Islanders scored two quick goals against the Penguins, who, unlike last Saturday, lost tonight 4-2 to Ted Nolan's men. The Pens might have still been reeling from their win in Boston last night after they blew a 4-0 lead, but hung on to win in a shootout.
Next to the Rangers, Pittsburgh is probably one of the biggest disappointments this season around the NHL. After their balleyhooed 105 point season a year ago, they have struggled right out of the gate and currently sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff zone. At first, the big problem was Marc-Andre Fleury's play. Then, it was their lack of scoring. Now, it seems to be their power-play. Last Saturday's game against New York saw the Pens with a 5-minute power-play at the end of the game thanks to Chris Simon's moment (yet again) of brilliance. Somehow, someway during that power-play, Mike Sillinger was found all alone in the neutral zone, broke in on a breakaway, yet missed the net entirely, helping to keep Pittsburgh's narrow lead en route to a 3-2 win.
Through the first two periods, the Islanders were on the penalty-kill five times and the Penguins only managed to score once, thanks to a mix-up between Rick DiPietro and his defenseman. With a dangerous power-play on paper, the Pens were the 12th ranks team with the extra man in the league coming into tonight and it's slipping. They have a hard time setting up in the defensive zone and tend to play "dump and chase", which tonight failed miserably. It's tough to play that way with a goaltender in DiPietro who handles the puck extremely well. At one point, they dumped the puck in on two consecutive rushes and both times the Isles goaltender had enough time to shoot the puck out of the zone successfully.
Watching this team over the past few weeks, there's no hustle or sense of urgency when they are losing or close to giving up a lead (see: last night). It's almost as if the entire team is banking on what they did a year ago, like the players are thinking, "Hey, we put up 105 points last year. We'll come around." Unfortunately, it's not the matter of flicking a switch and the points fall from the sky. Hopefully, that mindframe is not festering itself within the team and they realize they need to put the work in because the games are flying by and for every point dropped, that's another dagger to their playoff chances.