Welcome to Penguins Perspectives, a weekly column by KDKA-TV Digital Producer Patrick Damp. Each Monday, Patrick will talk about the week that was, the week to come, what to watch for, and more.
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Instead of what I had planned for today's column, breaking down the stats and explaining that it's just a rough stretch, my mind was changed on Wednesday night after watching the Penguins concede yet another multi-goal lead, this time to a rebuilding team in Buffalo, and I came to a different conclusion.
I need to have a talk with a few people who mean a lot to me.
A few people who have brought me so much happiness, joyous memories, and so much more over the last 15 years.
Sid, Geno, Tanger? Bring it in here, boys, we got to have a chat.
You cool if I call you that? No worries, I'm doing it anyway, you've been here longer than I've had my dog and she gets to share a bed with me every night.
So, let's talk.
Fellas, I know, it's only early November. I know that in an 82-game season, in a league where exactly half the teams make the postseason, it's difficult to get it going when the road is so long, so arduous, so excruciating, it's a challenge.
However, I've watched you for more than a decade now and there's one thing I know…you let bad habits creep in, especially after a few big wins and some successes.
Heck, it's not even entirely your fault, it's human nature. Everything's working so we must be doing everything right, right?
Well, you're doing the one thing we ask of you and that's producing. The goals and points are there and we love you for that. In fact, it's what we pay you for.
We…like I'm Fenway Sports Group…you know what I mean.
Before we keep talking here, I do want to make something clear: I am not blaming you three for this current slump. I know you're producing, and I know you're working, but there's something else we have to discuss.
Here's what's bothering me, Penguins fans, and I guarantee bothering Mike Sullivan, the man you all have said you have so much respect for – the early play has been careless. It's been directionless. It's been sloppy. It's the antithesis of what we've come to expect from you.
There's a lot of speculation lately, is this the beginning of the end? Is Father Time finally catching up to the Big Three?
I've said it in this column, I've said it on 93.7, and just about everywhere else, time is the only undefeated entity in the history of sports. It waits for no man and comes for everyone.
With that in mind, after watching you guys through the first few games, you've held it at bay pretty well. The physical traits are still there. The speed is still there. The skill is absolutely still there…but the minds? I know those aren't going but as of late, you've been playing a lot like it and we know how that goes.
When 87, 71, and 58 are going, so is everyone else.
You've done a lot for the steel city since you were fresh-faced kids in the mid-2000s. You returned a franchise to a glory it hadn't seen in nearly 20 years. Then you took it even further and did it two more times. Instead of the Pittsburgh Penguins going through their cycle of being competitive, then champions, and right back to middling. You've kept this team among the league's elite, despite the NHL not wanting teams to stay that way for more than a few years at a time.
Needless to say, you've done a lot for us as a city and as a fanbase.
There is one thing I have to address, though.
You all fought to stay together.
Granted, the last couple of seasons showed us you've still got plenty of fight left to give and who knows, maybe another magical run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
So, staying together wasn't a bad decision, at least not to me, but again…you fought for it. You told us how much you loved playing together and that you wanted to retire as Penguins.
Now, you will. You'll all likely end your careers only having played for a single franchise, an achievement within itself.
You've done so much for us over a nearly 20-year period.
I've got one last thing to ask, and you know what? I'll let one of you tell it.
"It's tough," Malkin said. "When you're lost, you need to support each other, help each other. It's time to build up the team. We lost these games in a row. Why not win the next six games in a row?"
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