Just a tough stretch here for the Penguins. After going into the Olympic break hot the Penguins are now 6-6-2 since which means they are 6-8 since they came back from Russia. That is not very good. There are some problems with missing a bunch of key players but with the way the Penguins have played all season in spite of injuries to important members of the team and now that might be catching up with them.
Tonight Phoenix was just the better team. While the Penguins have done an outstanding job of shutting down power plays the Coyotes made the Penguins pay for the penalties they took. While they only registered one power play goal they scored the game-winning goal just seconds after a power play expired.
A lot of people are talking about the officiating tonight. It was bad. The Coyotes got to the power play six times while the Penguins only had one. I don't buy into the notion that the penalties should be close or even and the idea of "make-up" calls is really just a narrative that is driven. If you commit more penalties then you are going to be on the PK more. While that is what I believe there were a couple of times the Penguins should have had a power play and didn't but that is just what happens when you have humans making the call. Jussi Jokinen got tripped up twice on the same play and then got up and retaliated and took a penalty that led to the game-winner. Now, the penalty probably should have been called on him getting tripped but it does not excuse Jokinen slashing a player across the legs. People are saying Antoine Vermette dove, and he might have, but why do you put yourself in that position to make that call? Officials do not determine the outcome of games. The Penguins not putting the puck in the back of the net and playing sloppy defensive hockey early did. End of story.
Brandon Sutter is going to have to step up his game with the 2-3 week absence of Evgeni Malkin. Sutter played a pretty nice game tonight as he was paired with James Neal and Jokinen. A lot has been said about his performance and if it would improve if he was paired with more talented players and now we are going to get to see if that is the case. So far it worked out pretty well.
Big ups to Coyotes goaltender Thomas Greiss. Mike Smith has been outstanding for them all season and he went down and Greiss was asked to come in and play in a big time game with his team needing two points to stay in the playoffs. He made some brilliant saves and he did including a big save with just minutes to go on James Neal. The three stars after the game are largely meaningless and just a way for the writers at the game to feel important but for Greiss to not be on there is pretty funny.
The nice thing about this is that the Penguins don't have to have these points. They are not going to catch Boston for the top seed in the East and they still have a good bit of padding over the other couple of teams behind them so they are mostly set where they are going to be. That shouldn't be an excuse to not gather as many points as possible but it is the truth of the matter. They are going to be playing against a lot of teams that are going to be desperate for points against them and they are going to have to match that to some extent. Hopefully they can find their mojo over the remaining games and get ready for what should be a tough playoff matchup.