Granted the opponent was only the Coyotes, but Saturday’s 3-1 victory by the Pittsburgh Penguins was a welcome one for a team that had spent much of last week in the cross-hairs of its critics.
Case in point, this is how Ron Cook, columnist at the Post-Gazette, led his most recent piece:
“So what was more surprising Saturday night? That the Penguins actually scored three goals and won a game against the lousy Arizona Coyotes? Or that they didn’t whine to the referees over every call and no-call?”
Those have been the two major criticisms lobbed at the Penguins, summed up in one paragraph by Cook. Neither criticism is particularly unfair, given the Pens haven’t been scoring very many goals and showed a decided lack of composure in a recent game versus the Red Wings.
But that’s not to say the Pens have been playing altogether terrible hockey. The four-game losing streak, the one in which they were outscored 11-2, actually saw them outshoot their opponents by a combined 140-100.
And with the caveat that there’s more to winning than a good Corsi (ask the 2014-15 Kings), it’s still worth noting that, in their last 20 games, the Penguins have the second-best score-adjusted Corsi in the league. In a good number of their losses during that stretch (10-8-2), the opposition goalie was named first or second star.
Evidence of Pittsburgh’s frustration? Here’s what captain Sidney Crosby said of the tying goal versus the Coyotes, one that Arizona goalie Mike Smith mistakenly banked off Brandon Sutter and into the net: “We finally got a bounce.”
Not that Crosby was willing to let his team off the hook in previous losses. (“[Cory Schneider] did make good saves when he had to, but we could have given him more,” he said after a 35-shot shutout loss to New Jersey.) But he clearly felt the bounces weren’t going the Pens’ way.
The Penguins have the day off today. They host the Blues tomorrow in what will be one of their toughest tests before the playoffs start.
“St. Louis is a top team in the West,” said coach Mike Johnston. “We had a good game against them out there. Now it’s coming in against them against a top team and really bringing our game to that level.”