Thoughts, musings and observations from the Pens' 4-0 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes at PPG Paints Arena.
* The Pens' biggest problem this season - from a macro perspective - has been their undulating results. They can't seem to string together wins with any regularity or consistency. They've had up-and-down results. It's not that they haven't had the solid wins and efforts - see the 5-1 win in Philly - but it's the game after that has haunted them. Until they can find a way to produce a victory following a victory and cobble together a run, the playoffs are looking bleak.
* The Pens' injuries at forwards - particularly at center - have caused some reshuffling of the deck. With Bryan Rust and Carter Rowney out with upper-body injuries, the club moved Jake Guentzel into a third-line center role. But Pittsburgh experimented with a number of different looks in the game, including a trio of Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Daniel Sprong, as well as Guentzel, Crosby and Phil Kessel.
* Canes netminder Cam Ward has had the Pens' number throughout his career. Entering the game tonight he had career marks of 17-10-4 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .922 save percentage against Pittsburgh. Those numbers will only improve following his 21-save shutout, his first ever against the Pens. Ward has stopped 47 of 48 shots in the last 2 games against the Pens. He's been just plain brilliant.
* Ward had some assistance from his Canes teammates. Carolina does an impressive job of working together as a 5-man unit in taking away everything in the defensive zone. The Hurricanes made the Pens work for every inch of ice and had sticks in every passing and shooting lane. It looked like Canes were playing with an extra player, but they were just really smart with positioning and effort.
* Sebastian Aho is a player. That kid can flat-out fly with matching hands to boot. The 20-year-old had 2 goals and 3 points tonight - and should have had a hat trick. His burst of speed allowed him to get the edge on Justin Schultz - no slow player himself - and beat goalie Matt Murray. He later tipped a shot going high and wide from an impossible angle along the goal line into the net. Aho now has a 6-game scoring streak (6G-4A-10PTS).