The Penguins finally got some puck luck involved in a couple goals in order to jump up to a 3-0 lead, but it wasn’t to be as Nashville battled back.
Could a coaching change be on the horizon? For whatever reason the Pens are stuck in a rut. No matter who Michel Therrien plays (or sits), no matter what combination he uses (and he’s about tried them all) nothing is clicking, nothing is working. Among the worst of his ideas:
--Sitting Hal Gill out again and playing Alex Goligoski as a 3rd line forward. The now official whipping boy of TST, Phillipe Boucher, is playing terrible. When Ryan Whitney coughed up the puck to give up a 2 on 1 (gah) Boucher fell back. As a defensemen there is one important thing to accomplish on a 2 on 1, and even the most basic players know it. DO NOT ALLOW THE PASS, let the goalie play the guy with the puck, you take out the other player. So what does Boucher do? He lets a pass go through. Sure, it was a nice saucer pass by Martin Erat and David Legwand made a great hustle just to get in the play, but that’s what happens at the NHL level when you don’t do your job.
--Alex Goligoski is not a forward. He’s never played forward. He’s not going to look good jumping straight into NHL action as a forward. The third and tying Nashville goal was a real back-breaker, with :55 seconds left in the period. Mark Eaton and who else, Boucher, couldn’t get the puck out and Goligoski—not a forward, didn’t play his new position well either. Shocker.
--Constant line switching. We don’t mind a change now and then, but seemingly every period all the combinations were switched. Jordan Staal played with Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy. Then he’s playing with Matt Cooke and Max Talbot; Miroslav Satan is with Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora, then he’s down with Dustin Jeffrey and Tim Wallace. Malkin is bouncing around from center to wing. With all this changing, it’s no wonder the Penguins effort and results are mixed and uneven. There’s no chance to settle in with chemistry—or for those moving from wing to center or defense to wing back to defense when the team needs a goal, even to get comfortable in a position.
Nashville had some interesting ideas too, they pulled goalie Dan Ellis after the second goal (a fluky bad clearing attempt that ended up in the net). Both coaches and Nashville broadcasters said it wasn’t Ellis’ fault, but to kick start the team. Well the team was already outshooting and outhustling the Penguins—not that that says too much these days—and new goalie Pekka Rinne saw a pinball Matt Cooke pass end up on Max Talbot’s stick and in the back of the net. From their on though Rinne was solid, especially during the Penguins last flurry.
In that last, desperate exchange; new contract boy Jordan Staal got the puck on his stick with an empty net but Radek Bonk made a fabulous defensive play to poke it away. If Staal can put that in we go to OT at 4-4 and anything could happen. But, these days, that’s just not how things are going for the Penguins. The only question is how big of a whole is Ray Shero going to let the team dig themselves before he takes action. Whether that is relieving Therrien, making a trade, signing Brendan Shanahan, any number of possibilities could be the answer. The option of sitting back and letting the boys get over this themselves just doesn’t look realistic now.