Pittsburgh Penguins Show They Will Be Work In Progress For A While


Oct 23, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) and Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) battle for the puck in the second period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For those of us who were feeling pretty good about the Pittsburgh Penguins’ progress under new coach Mike Johnston, the last two days have been a splash of water to the face.

There’s still a long way to go.

Although the result was slightly different – overtime loss instead of a regulation defeat – Thursday night’s late collapse at Detroit was the second piece of evidence in 24 hours that these Penguins (3-2-1, 7 points) remain firmly in development mode.

If you can’t handle that type of delayed gratification, I suggest you check out on this team for a while. These aren’t your Penguins of the past five years, who were able to ride their offensive talent and familiarity with Dan Bylsma‘s system to routine victories from October to March.

At least for the next several weeks, nothing is going to come that easy. Whether it’s the Pens struggling with a passive opponent like the Flyers were Wednesday or being unable to withstand late pressure like the Red Wings threw at them Thursday, every game has been and will be a learning process.

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That sounds like fun to me, as the regular-season comfort level of the Bylsma era seemed to leave the Pens ill-equipped to handle the unpredictability of the playoffs. There may not have been a direct cause and effect there, but all things being equal, I’d rather see this team muddle through a rough stretch in the fall instead of a few months later.

Right now, the Penguins need to keep playing games. If I’m Johnston, I’m posting the following quote from Samuel Beckett in the dressing room: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I thought Pittsburgh did indeed “fail better” on Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, even if it didn’t result in a win. At times, the Pens were able to surprise Detroit with impressive speed and cohesion through the neutral zone, and they didn’t surrender a lot of scoring chances against until late in the third.

If Pascal Dupuis, who has looked great coming off knee reconstruction, simply plays keepaway with the puck in the final minute of regulation instead of forcing a shot at an empty net, the Penguins probably earn the result Thursday. Instead, they’ll have to try to end their two-game winless streak Saturday in Nashville.

That’s OK. As long as growth is occurring, failure is an option.