Execution, Not Effort, Plagued Pittsburgh Penguins Against Philadelphia


Oct 22, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers left wing

R.J. Umberger

(18) scores past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie

Marc-Andre Fleury

(29) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Flyers won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t be fooled by the talk of the Philadelphia Flyers’ 10-1-1 regular-season record at Consol Energy Center or the Pittsburgh Penguins’ supposed lack of commitment in Wednesday night’s renewal of this always-interesting in-state rivalry.

The issue in Pittsburgh’s 5-3 loss wasn’t orange-and-black voodoo or “compete level,” to use a favorite term of hockey coaches worldwide. No, what doomed the Penguins was a startling lack of execution.

First, a caveat. As Doc Emrick reminded us prior to the television broadcast, Wednesday was Day 22 of the NHL season. The Penguins (3-2-0, 6 points) had played four games in three weeks entering the night, and they looked like a team unfamiliar with the sport for much of the evening.

Still, they’re not going to have that excuse for much longer, with two more games coming in the next three days, including a Thursday night battle with old friends in Detroit. Mike Johnston has had what amounts to a five-week training camp, but there’s only so much a coach can do without the reinforcement of game action.

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The new boss will have plenty of video-room fodder after Wednesday night, with the Penguins making poor decisions all over the ice to hand the Flyers chance after chance to rev up their formidable counterattack.

After a strong opening 10 minutes, Pittsburgh appeared to be rattled by a couple of Philadelphia goals against the run of play. Instead of sticking to what was working, the Pens tried to do too much once they fell behind 2-1.

They got a fortunate bounce to tie the game in the second period, but turnovers plagued them the rest of the way. Not even a rare two-point night from Nick Spaling could bail the Pens out from there, although they did have a shot to force overtime after Marcel Goc‘s late tally.

Yes, it happened to be the Flyers on the visitors’ bench, and maybe some of the longer-tenured Penguins reverted to unproductive psychological patterns that tend to show up with Philly in town.

However, if given the choice, I prefer to deal in tangibles. Quite simply, Pittsburgh’s read-and-react game was mostly illiterate.

On the other hand, if you’re into karma, maybe it was a bad idea to debut those gorgeous throwback uniforms against the Flyers. If memory serves, the Penguins didn’t have very much success in the Keystone State feud when they donned “Pittsburgh Gold.”

Just some food for thought, if you’re into that sort of thing.