SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins have dropped five straight games, and six of their last seven contests, as the team struggled to find its form. Every NHL club will struggle at some point throughout the course of an 82-game season but the Penguins are not happy with their recent results.
“Stretches like this are frustrating,” veteran Bill Guerin said. “The more you press, the more you try to do, the worse you’re going to make it. You have to realize teams go through this every year. They go through it all the time. We had a stretch like this earlier with all the injuries. You just have to take a step back, get back to basics and playing our game. That’s it. If we try to change our game or the way we play, we’re just going to hurt ourselves. We just have to get back to basics.”
“Our game has to be better,” captain Sidney Crosby
said. “There are no excuses. There are no common problems. We’re not executing and we’re paying the price for it.
“This happens in the season sometimes. You’ve got to figure out why and correct it quickly. We just have to make sure we turn it around and don’t make it a habit. We know what we have to do. It’s a matter of doing it for a whole game.”
The Penguins suffered a rash of injuries in the early part of the season, particularly on defense, and lost four-straight games from Nov. 5 to 12. After Pittsburgh’s health improved, the squad rebounded with a 12-3-1 mark. So the Penguins know what it takes to break out of a funk.
“We can do most of the little things better,” Guerin said. “I wouldn’t say all of them but most of them. As players we have to address it, as a team and individually, a willingness to do it.”
Head coach Dan Bylsma added:
“It’s attention to detail, it’s bringing your game, it’s bringing the urgency level that you need to win hockey games in this league and play the way your team needs to play. We have not been there in large parts recently.
“We have to be determined as individuals and as a group to make sure we do that.”
One thing that isn’t lacking for Pittsburgh is work ethic. Even during the current losing streak, the Penguins have been putting in the effort.
“That’s one thing you can say that this team does is work hard,” defenseman Mark Eaton said. “Nobody is dogging it. That’s not an issue.”
It’s never a question of effort. This team is always working hard. But working smart and executing, that’s the big word. We’ve got a group that has a lot of character and pride in their game. Our focus has got to be on executing. - Sidney Crosby
“It’s never a question of effort,” Crosby said. “This team is always working hard. But working smart and executing, that’s the big word. We’ve got a group that has a lot of character and pride in their game. Our focus has got to be on executing.”
The Penguins are also enduring an odd time in the schedule. With the holiday breaks, the frequent travel and afternoon games, the team hasn’t had much opportunity to practice and work out certain kinks. But the team isn’t making any excuses.
“This is a time of year where there isn’t much practice time, some days off, the holidays where the focus and attention translates into poor execution level,” Bylsma said. “Getting away from what you need to do as a player can lead to getting away from what you need to do as a team. That’s what I kind of see.”
“When you go through things like this you look to see what it is and question things,” Crosby said. “We aren’t executing. If it’s not because we’re not practicing as much or whatever the case is, we’ve got to deal with it. There’s no second guessing or making excuses. The other teams face the same thing. They find ways to win so we have to make sure we do the same thing.”
The Penguins know that they are a championship contending hockey team. They remain confident that they will battle through this tough period and get back to their game.
“We need to try and refocus here. We’re beating ourselves,” Eaton said. “We know if we can put a full game together and execute, play smart, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win. It’s just something we haven’t been doing.”
“We don’t want to play like this,” Guerin said. “There are questions we’re asking ourselves. It’s not an easy time but we’re still in a good spot. We still have a good team. We’ll get through it.”
And Bylsma knows that the key to turning things around will be found within this current group of men.
“The guys in that (locker) room, the coaching staff, we are the guys who are going to get out of it,” Bylsma said. “We have a clear understanding of what that’s going to look like. Right now it has to be us together. You have to focus on doing that over and over again, to play a certain way, executing a certain way. That becomes who you are regardless of what the score is. It’s a perspective we have to understand. We have to make sure we’re focused on doing that and understand the urgency with which we have to get back to our game and bring to the rink starting (today).”