The Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t been playing as well as they would like to as the last month of the season is getting underway. With their 2-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Saturday and a 5-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings today, the Penguins have lost three of their last four games. While the on the ice losing is something the Penguins don’t enjoy, they are also losing some of their best players which could be a problem the closer the team gets to the playoffs.
Before their game on Saturday, star center Sidney Crosby left the ice during warmups and missed the game. Head Coach Mike Johnston said that Crosby was being seen by team doctors for an illness, not a physical injury. The decision was made right before the game when Crosby said he wasn’t feeling well.
It caused a little bit of a delay as Johnston had already submitted the lineups. While this is a relief, Crosby hasn’t had the best health this season as he was one of the many players that battled the mumps virus. It is unlikely that he has contracted the mumps again, but usually the immune system doesn’t return to 100% for a couple of months. Crosby is the best player on the team and without him, the entire makeup is different.
During the Bruins game, the Penguins had another star go down with injury. Evgeni Malkin was legally checked by Bruins forward Chris Kelly. After remaining on the ice for a number of minutes, Malkin skated to the bench and was examined by team doctors in the locker room.
He attempted to make a comeback towards the end of the first period, but he was not able to finish the game. He was diagnosed with a lower body injury, and it remains to be seen how long he is out. Crosby was able to return against Detroit, but Malkin watched from the sidelines.
The Penguins will be able to find out the extent of Malkin’s injury over the next couple of days, but it’s safe to say Penguins fans are holding their collective breath. If these two aren’t close to 100% at the end of the season, it will be another early exit for the Penguins.
If Malkin is going to miss time, who does that leave for the Penguins?
The next leading scorer in terms of points is defenseman Kris Letang. Goal wise, Patric Hornqvist is tied with Crosby for second on the team with 23 goals and he was injured in the Detroit contest.
Hornqvist left late in the third period. Johnston is concerned the injury could be serious.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) March 15, 2015
Pittsburgh does have some depth in veterans like Chris Kunitz and David Perron, but that won’t replace the pure goal scoring of Malkin and Hornqvist. Not only would their five-on-five play suffer, but one of the league’s better power plays would be without two of their top pieces.
Luckily for Pittsburgh, they should be able to handle the next week of their schedule without too many problems. After their game on Sunday against the Detroit, the Penguins have a three game road trip against New Jersey, Dallas and Arizona. The Penguins might have the easiest schedule remaining as only three of their remaining 14 games are against teams that would be in the playoffs. Pittsburgh does have a couple games against the Philadelphia Flyers who are hanging onto playoff hopes. Even if the Flyers are out of contention at the time, they would like nothing more than to spoil the hopes of their in state rival.
The Penguins are not in danger of missing the playoffs. Depending on how hurt Malkin is and the health of Hornqvist, it will have an impact on how far they go once the playoffs begin. There are some good teams in the playoffs and the Penguins haven’t played their best hockey against some of the better teams in the division. The Penguins have to be careful in the standings as the Washington Capitals are coming up close behind them. At the moment, the Capitals are only six points behind the Penguins and have been playing better up until the past week.