Pittsburgh Penguins still have kinks to iron out despite first win against Caps

Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jason Zucker (16). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jason Zucker (16). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

There is still a long way to go for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Something finally gave earlier today as the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals in a Shootout after the game finished tied at 3-3 after regulation and Overtime, with winger Jake Guentzel scoring the winning goal to give his team their first win of the 2020-21 NHL Season.

It was a huge relief for the Penguins who had dropped their opening two games of the year – both to the Philadelphia Flyers – but it wasn’t a perfect game against the Caps by any stretch of the imagination and there is a lot of work to be done for this team.

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Granted, this was just what the doctor ordered with Evan Rodrigues giving the Pens a dream start after scoring just 19 seconds in the game, while Colton Sceviour made it a tied game after Nic Dowd and Alex Ovechkin had responded for the Capitals, before a Marcus Pettersson rocket took the game to overtime in the wake of Nicklas Backstrom recording his second goal of the season.

Guentzel then won it in the shootout after Pittsburgh goalie Casey DeSmith saved every attempt he faced in the shootout in what was his first NHL start in almost two years. It was a big, big win for the Penguins and one they needed after a bitterly disappointing start to 2020-21.

Chad Ruhwedel (2)
Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (2). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Pittsburgh Penguins still need to solve fatal flaws

However, this win is a case of putting lipstick on a pig in that it shouldn’t mask the fact that the Pittsburgh Penguins just haven’t looked very good so far. There were a plethora of question marks hovering over this team heading into the 2020-21 season and, so far, those concerns are ringing true.

For starters, there was a thought that dealing Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators would come back to haunt this franchise and, although a small sample size, that has proven true so far with Tristan Jarry looking god-awful in the two ugly losses to the Philadelphia Flyers. His rebound control put his team in a hell of a lot of trouble, he played too deep in his net and, as a result, Casey  DeSmith was handed his first NHL start in nearly two years for today’s game.

Now, DeSmith was good with 20 saves on 23 shots while he went perfect in the shootout, but is he really the long-term answer for the Penguins? Probably not, so if Jarry doesn’t work things out soon then Pittsburgh could be in trouble. Another glaring concern is their defense which looked suspect yet again today, with Kris Letang enduring a slow start to the season with a plus / minus rating of -5.

And, with Mike Matheson out for the foreseeable with a lower-body injury, that is another blow for a unit that has been woeful to say the least so far this year, consistently getting beat on the pinch, guilty of not anticipating plays in their own zone and making rash decisions, that kind of play from your defense is a death knell for any team especially when you throw in poor goaltending too.

Throw in the fact that Evgeni Malkin doesn’t have a point in three games, Jason Zucker only has one point and Brandon Tanev has the team lead in points with three (2 G, 1 A), then there is plenty of reason to worry about this Penguins offense that lacks any real scoring punch outside of Sidney Crosby, who can’t do everything on his own every single night and he’s going to need Malkin to wake up at some point in the not-too-distant future.

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So, while today’s win over the Washington Capitals certainly helped, there is no doubt that this Pittsburgh Penguins team is seriously flawed and, while there is still time, there is little room for error in a 56-game season and they will need to iron out a hell of a lot of kinks if they are to be one of four teams to escape from what is an absolutely loaded East Division and make the postseason.