Crosby call conspiracy; Put Kunitz out to pasture; Young old-timers

Dave Lozo’s weekly look at the Pens pictures life without Letang, questions the age of some ‘old-timers’ and celebrates Malkin’s return to form.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins
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It’s not easy to defeat your divisional rival 8-7 in overtime yet still have your worst week of the season, but that’s the only way to describe the past seven days for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Snapping the Capitals’ nine-game winning streak was nice, but the Penguins endured their first three-game losing streak of the season before that wild contest. They were outscored 15-5 in regulation losses to Ottawa, Detroit and Washington, which means although the Capitals lost a memorable game Monday, they still grabbed three of four points from the Penguins.

The losses weren’t even the worst news of the week — it was losing Kris Letang to injury. The Penguins are calling Letang “week-to-week” after suffering what appeared to be a knee injury against the Red Wings on Saturday. An already thin group on defense will be tested over at least the next week and probably longer as the Penguins look to avoid slipping in the NHL’s most competitive division.

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In the nearly two full games the Penguins have played without Letang, they have allowed 13 goals on 62 shots.

The upcoming schedule the Penguins will face without Letang is daunting; starting with the Canadiens in Montreal on Wednesday night, seven of their next nine opponents are in playoff spots.

The other two — Nashville and Carolina — are one point out of playoff spots and had won a combined seven straight games until both lost Tuesday night.

Not that Penguins fans don’t already value Letang, but they may develop a new appreciation for him in the coming weeks.

Old times’ sake

There’s nothing worse than a bunch of old men that take fandom so seriously that they dress up in their favorite team’s uniform and … oh, those are Penguins alumni.

The Penguins and Flyers played an alumni game at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday in advance of their outdoor game at Heinz Field next month.

Ryan Malone scored twice for the Penguins. Tyler Kennedy also added a goal. It should be noted that Malone is 37 and Kennedy is 30, which should be young enough to bar you from an old timer’s game, which is the real name of an ‘alumni’ game.

The Flyers trotted out 67-year-old Bobby Clarke and 43-year-old Eric Lindros, so it’s probably disappointing that Kennedy couldn’t score 11 goals.

Like any good alumni game, this one ended in a 3-3 tie.

Player of the Week

NHL: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
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An eight-goal game will do wonders to inflate everyone’s stats over a week, but Evgeni Malkin’s hat trick against the Capitals was part of a five-goal, one-assist week. If you recall, he was our Player of the Weak last week after a poor performance in a one-game week.

It’s great to see Malkin bounce back and perhaps use the words in this space as a motivator.

Player of the Weak

We use this photo every time Kunitz is named Player of the Weak. We use this photo a lot.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A seven-goal game will do wonders to deflate everyone’s stats over a week, but we’re not going to single out the goaltenders. Instead, we will request that someone put Chris Kunitz out to pasture, because he just doesn’t seem like he has anything left.

The Penguins scored 13 goals last week and Kunitz didn’t pick up a point on any of them. He played a season-low 10:44 in the Caps shootout, so maybe Mike Sullivan is starting to understand the 37-year-old can no longer be relied upon.

Kunitz is having the worst season of his career, and it’s fair to say he’s not one of the Penguins’ 12 best forwards.

Two Questions (That are the Same)

Ah yes. The league loves the Penguins and hates your favorite team. Classic.

The Penguins have been called for 166 minor penalties and been shorthanded 151 times this season, 11th-most in the league in both categories. Last year, the numbers were 310/257, which ranked eighth and the 14th. The year before that, only four teams were shorthanded more often than the Penguins.

As for Sidney Crosby never being called for penalties, welcome to pro sports.

It comes with being a star, fair or not. Michael Jordan shoved that Utah Jazz guy into the seventh row to get off a shot in the NBA Finals. Tom Brady on Sunday cried so hard about getting hit that he fell down, then got a call the next time he was touched. Ever get a look at a strike zone of a star baseball player?

Crosby should have been in the penalty box in overtime Monday night, sure, but don’t think it’s a vast conspiracy to help the Penguins win. It’s either referee incompetence or referees swallowing their whistles in close games like they do for everyone, which I guess is just another form of referee incompetence.

And really, when you cry on Twitter about the Penguins not getting calls, it nourishes Penguins fans. You’re playing right into their hands. They simply gather your tears and put french fries on top of them.