As the second-oldest player on Pittsburgh’s roster and a two-time Stanley Cup winner, Rob Scuderi’s words tend to carry weight.
The ones uttered after Tuesday’s stunning OT loss in Ottawa certainly did.
“I think we’ve been a fragile group for the last couple of weeks,” Scuderi said, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “This is depressing right now.”
Tuesday’s game, in which the Pens blew a 3-0 lead, continued a disturbing trend in which Pittsburgh plays well, suffers a bit of adversity and then — well, they sort of unravel.
— April 4. Pens jumped out to 2-0 lead on Columbus. The Jackets scored two quick goals just over two minutes, and went on to win 5-3.
— Mar. 24. Pens jump out to 2-0 lead on St. Louis. The Blues scored two “greasy” goalmouth scramble goals to tie it up, and won in OT.
This trend, inevitably, circles back to a larger-scale discussion about Pittsburgh’s lack of composure. History has a way of repeating itself with the Penguins, especially when it comes to keeping it together — though there’s been wholesale changes at various levels of the organization, the Penguins keep falling apart at the first sign of adversity.
“It seems like a couple of bad breaks,” forward Brandon Sutter said, “is all it takes to get us off our game.”
It has to be asked if certain moves by GM Jim Rutherford have played a role. Steve Downie, currently sidelined with injury, has been a penalty magnet and doesn’t appear any more disciplined now than he was during his controversial junior career. Noted pest Maxim Lapierre, less-than-affectionately known as Yappy Lappy, isn’t exactly a paragon of composure either.
The counter to that argument, though, is that Downie and Lapierre are bit players, role guys. Pittsburgh’s fragility is more of a team-wide epidemic and can’t be pinned on one or two players — nobody played well over the final 40 minutes of the Ottawa game, and you could almost feel the Pens collectively sink when Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s “shot” caromed in off Derrick Pouliot’s skate for the Sens’ opening goal of the game.
Despite all this, Pittsburgh has a positive to cling onto. It can still orchestrate its own playoff fate — if the Pens get three points from the final two games, they’re in.
“It’s time to let it go,” Scuderi explained. “We still control our destiny.”