The rival Philadelphia Flyers came to visit for the first Pennsylvania Derby of the year. A contest that the Penguins dominated last year winning all four meetings in the regular season and dominating the first round playoff series against their Cold War rivals.

So naturally when the Penguins need a game to boost their confidence and give them some momentum the Flyers happen to be on the schedule. A Saturday night contest at home in front of a packed PPG Paints Arena. This is a guaranteed win… Right? Right?

Well history buffs would tell you that since the opening of Mario’s House in 2010 the Flyers have been nearly unbeatable in Pittsburgh. The Season opener in 2010 the Flyer beat the Guins 3-2 with Danny Briere scoring the game winning goal. After that the Flyers have gone on to be 14-6-1 over the past eight years.

So last night the Gelatinous Orange Blob rolled into town and did what they always do. Play physically, get under the skin of the big stars (cough Geno) and win the game. Its a script that is all to familiar when it comes to the Broad Street Bullies but it’s also been the season story so far.

The Penguins score, then the score is tied immediately because whatever shooter tutor is between the pipes can’t make a save. Then the other team scores shorthanded in spite of our power play and then they score a late extra goal ceiling the game away.

So now what? The Penguins are 6th in the division and time is running out. If Old Jimmy isn’t happy with his team then he needs to have a fire sale. If he isn’t happy with the way his team is being deployed on a nightly basis, then Mike Sullivan needs replaced. I don’t care what happens but something has to give.

The Detroit Red Wings managed to make the playoffs 21 straight seasons. When Penguins core first made the playoffs in 2007 it seemed like we were destined to be the next team to set that record, but December is here and as of right now the Penguins are out of the playoffs.

The problem isn’t with the big four. Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, and Letang are clicking on all cylinders. The problem is in the supporting staff and particularly the teams ability to keep the puck out of their own net.

We have stated in previous articles suggestions to solve these issues, but up to this point the only thing that has changed is Carl Hagelin was traded for Tanner Pearson. Daniel Sprong is still not playing, let alone playing in the top six. Casey (Fantasy Camp) DeSmith is still getting the lion’s share of games, and our bottom pairing of defense men wouldn’t start for most NHL teams.

Added to the list are recent problems like, Kessel and Malkin being separated to the detriment of both players. Our once potent power play has given up damn near half as many goals as its scored. Finally an overall lack of care in the teams game.

The level of parity in the league this year would suggest that all hope is not lost. However until we start to see changes I have a lack of confidence in this team to crawl back into the playoff race. In spite of Sidney Crosby’s best attempts he alone can not carry this team into the playoffs.

So whats next? At this point I think we are all willing to listen to any suggestion.

So until next time, remember to keep your stick on the ice. – Johnny V. –

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Written by Johnny Violence

The lead NHL/Hockey writer for Thoughts From The Bench.

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