Remember when it looked like the Penguins might push the Capitals for the Metropolitan Division title? With the Penguins losing streak now at six games, they risk falling out of the Metro top three entirely.
Their slump hit what sure felt like a new low on Saturday as the Sharks shut them out 5-0. Martin Jones frustrated the flustered Penguins with a 30-save shutout. San Jose received contributions from the expected (Evander Kane, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton) and the not-so-much (25-year-old Joel Kellman scoring his third NHL goal).
Penguins lose ground as streak reaches six games
Consider a few factors in the Penguins’ six-game skid:
- The Flyers have been almost as hot as the Penguins have been cold. Philadelphia seeks its sixth consecutive win when the Flyers face the Rangers on NBC on Sunday afternoon (watch live).
- To make matters worse, the Penguins dropped all six games in regulation.
Look at how precarious the situation is becoming:
Metro 1: Capitals – 84 points in 64 games played (39-19-6)
Metro 2: Flyers – 81 points in 64 GP (37-20-7)
Metro 3: Penguins – 80 points in 64 GP (37-21-6)
East WC 1: Islanders – 78 points in 64 GP (35-21-8)
As you can see, the Penguins would begin the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road if they began right now. The Islanders are nipping at their heels for that third spot, too.
- Don’t totally discount the potential importance of home-ice advantage. The Penguins are 22-6-4 at home and just 15-15-2 on the road, while the Flyers see an almost identical gap (23-5-4 at home; 14-15-3 away).
- The Penguins played five of their last six games on the road, including their last four. Losing to the Capitals is one thing, but failing to get a single standings point against California’s three NHL teams is shaky in 2020. Things could get pretty dicey if the Penguins can’t beat the Senators in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Wake-up call didn’t happen yet
The Athletic’s Josh Yohe reports (sub required) that the Penguins viewed Saturday’s game as a chance to “stop the bleeding.” (Insert some “Sharks smelling blood” one-liners right here.)
“We’re digging ourselves a hole right now,” Patric Hornqvist said after Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Ducks. “So let’s figure out what we’re made of.”
Well, Saturday’s shutout to the Sharks was made of … ugh.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 1, 2020
It’s probably not a coincidence that Sidney Crosby is suffering through a brief lull.
From Feb. 8-18, Crosby generated an impressive five-game point streak, managing three goals and eight assists for 11 points. He’s only managed a single goal and suffered through a -8 rating during this six-game skid.
Perhaps some of these struggles stem from the Penguins trying to get acclimated to quite a few new names after making their typical run of aggressive trade deadline moves. As much as anything else, it’s also indicative of the ups and downs of a marathon 82-game season. You don’t see Martin Jones pitch a 30-save shutout every week, after all.
How worried should the Penguins be about their six-game losing streak, and where do you think they’ll finish in the standings?
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.