The Pens have lost their past two games, and although the Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens certainly deserve some credit, the Pens were also guilty of beating themselves.
The major culprit was discipline.
"We clearly have to be more disciplined," head coach Mike Sullivan said following the 4-0 loss to Montreal Tuesday night at Bell Centre. "We can't take the penalties that we're taking game-in and game-out and expect to get the results we're looking for."
The Pens took seven penalties against Colorado on Monday and another seven in Montreal on Tuesday. What really hurt the Pens on Tuesday is that four of the penalties they took came within seconds of Montreal taking a penalty, which either negated a Pittsburgh power play or put the team shorthanded.
"We need to play better," center Evgeni Malkin said. "If we have a chance we need to play the power play, not (make it) 4-on-4. Every game we take too many penalties. They play 5-on-3, 4-on-3 every game. It's discipline. We need to work on that. Next game we need a change."
Most of the penalties the Pens have been taking are of the stick variety - hooking, tripping, high sticking, slashing. Such stick infractions, though frustrating, are something that can be quickly rectified.
"It's having a heightened awareness. It's having responsibility with your stick. It's making sure you check with your legs and not your stick," Sullivan said. "For me the positive side of that is that should be quickly correctable just with our own discipline and awareness, making sure we're responsible with our sticks. I look at that as a positive because we know that we can fix that fast."
But discipline isn't just about taking penalties. It's also about focus and mental toughness.
"It starts with our discipline and not taking the types of penalties that we're taking, but also the discipline of staying with our game plan and not deviating, making sure that we have that resilience, and making sure we stay the course," Sullivan said. "That's an area that we have to continue to make strides and improve so that we can get more consistent results."
Though discipline is something the team will focus on, it's important to remember that it is still very early in the season. It's better that these bad habits are squashed now than later in the year.
Sullivan addressed all of those issues Wednesday morning with the team.
"Our discussion as a group today is that we're not controlling things that we can to give ourselves the best chance to win," he said. "We've got to make sure that we play the game the right way, by controlling things within our power. It's everything from a mindset going in to execution. We've got to become a more difficult team to play against."