I rarely get strong inclinations one way or the other before a Pens game about how it’s gonna turn out, but with the way the Pens’ D has been playing and with Brent Johnson in net against a red-hot Capitals offense, the outcome of this game was painfully foreseeable. I predicted 5-2 Capitals, and was actually surprised by the briefly-competitive 6-3 result.
The Pens’ D has been chuck-the-remote bad for a couple months now and continues to trivialize the Pens’ problems on the power play, in net, and Malkin’s mediocrity (all of which have at least shown signs of possible nearby improvement). If the Pens continue playing defense the way they have been, none of these other shortcomings will matter — the Pens will continue to be a glorified Lightning, incapable of stringing together a dominant win streak and entering the playoffs as eminently vulnerable. Fortunately, I don’t think this will be the case leading up to the playoffs, but for now, it’s a painful, me-swearing-at-the-screen reality.
I’ve been a Kris Letang supporter since long before the Ryan Whitney trade, but lately, Letang’s been my go-to Penguins scapegoat; he’s been directly responsible for about a goal a game over the past month, and not just as a result of him being out of position or failing to cover someone, but in increasingly creative, pathetic ways. Against the Capitals last night, Letang got caught pinching in the Caps’ zone below the goal line while it was 5-on-5 and a tie game, lost the puck, and left Nick Johnson — a winger playing in his first ever NHL game — back on D to cover Tomas Fleischmann, resulting in an instant Fleischmann breakaway and goal. Since any further comment on this action would result in at least a dozen F-words from me, I’ll just end the paragraph now.