A lot of bold statements and glum descriptions will flow from the Pittsburgh Penguins after a second gnawing defeat (this time 8-5) to the Philadelphia Flyers. While the stunned silence of the Consol Energy Center crowd speaks volumes, there will be quite the cacophony of criticisms in the next couple days.
Really, there are a lot of potential culprits, so I thought I’d turn to PHT readers for the ultimate answer on who’s most to blame for the Penguins entering Philly in a scary 2-0 hole.
Marc-Andre Fleury: For all the trouble Ilya Bryzgalov’s had, here’s a selective stat that hurts: he hasn’t given up a lead yet. Fleury has given up plenty, but Game 2 was especially rough: he allowed seven goals on 30 shots as the Flyers made it look easy.
Kris Letang and the defense in general: Of course, Philly is carving up “MAF” because of some alarmingly lax defense from the Penguins. It’s not fair to blame Letang when it seems like the entire team is falling apart, yet as the leader of the defensive unit, he’s likely to be the face of such criticism.
Dan Bylsma: Of course, you could also make the argument that the 2011 Jack Adams winner is getting thoroughly out-coached. While Peter Laviolette looks like a genius by staying with Bryzgalov and taking some well-timed time outs (redundant?) one might argue that the Penguins are getting “sucked in” to the Flyers’ aggressive style. One really cannot argue that Pittsburgh is playing horribly with leads. Some of that falls at the coaches dress shoes – it’s up to you to decide how much.
Star scorers not named Sidney Crosby?: I’m placing this category under “patently ridiculous,” but I wouldn’t be surprised to see an argument made there. Evgeni Malkin and James Neal had two assist apiece but matching -4 ratings; Chris Kunitz scored twice but had a -5. That might be material for some blame.
Penguins GM Ray Shero?: Another ridiculous (but kind of funny in a “Try to make that point with a straight face” sort of way) idea, but some people will bristle at the fact that Jaromir Jagr scored the game-winner while Maxime Talbot made his presence felt with a goal and an assist. Some will, quite amusingly, say that the Penguins could have had one or both on their side.
OK, so that was sort of a fun little exercise in reckless finger-pointing, wasn’t it? Go ahead and choose the guiltiest party in the poll and comments – there’s a write-in candidate in case I missed a spot with all the broad strokes.
So, let’s assume that the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets will eventually play in the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field on Sunday.
Every indication is that Cam Talbot and Connor Hellebuyck shall get the nods for their respective teams. Most assume, with the firepower on hand, that this could be a high-scoring game.
Hellebuyck isn’t flustered about all the goals the Jets have allowed so far, as he told NHL.com.
“It’s not something you’re really worried about,” Hellebuyck said. “It’s early in the year, it happens to a lot of teams. If you look at the trends in the past 10 years, there’s always a lot of goals being scored at the beginning of the year.”
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.