The currently falling in the standings Pittsburgh Penguins look to be at a fork in the road. The team, who have gone 4-6-0 in their last 10, needs to muster up some confidence and chemistry if they wish to make the playoffs.
The Penguins entered the season with one of the best teams on paper. Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang, Marc-Andre Fleury and team Captain and leader Sidney Crosby. Well, they still look good on paper, and even good on the ice, yet injuries have hit the team hard. To date, Jordan Staal sustained a knee injury and will be out 4-6 weeks. Kris Letang has been diagnosed with a concussion and his return date is unknown. And Sidney Crosby is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. Will the injuries ever stop?
The team has faced such adversity before as last season the team went without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for lengthy period of time. The team responded to the pressure, ending second in their division and fourth place overall within the Eastern Conference with a 106 point count. This season however, the team seems to be folding under the pressure.
Defenseman Brent Orpik, a voice of the locker room emphasizes the team’s need for accountability. “The accountability in this room has to be a lot better. We aren’t reacting to adversity very well right now. You can’t feel sorry for yourselves.”
The team will look to rebound in the coming month of January but with a tough schedule ahead of them. The month brings games against unexpectedly good Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues and the Toronto Maple Leafs; all teams who are currently in playoff spots. Surprisingly “easier” match-ups will be against the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and the still undecided Washington Capitals.
If the Penguins end this month out of a playoff spot, the long climb back might be too much for this team to handle.