3rd Line Crater Penguins; A dejected Jeff Carter responds

The Pittsburgh Penguins have a problem, or several, depending on how deep you want to go. They have not been able to beat the best teams in the Metro Division. They have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory far too often this season, and their back line, often tasked with defensive responsibilities, is being crushed by opponents.

Penguins center and former fan favorite Jeff Carter is the poster boy for wrestling, and his old Bud Light-drinking character of Welches has morphed into a villain responsible for a disproportionate amount of wrestling. of the Penguins.

The fandom has turned ugly. To be fair, the performances from the third line aren’t helping. Instead, they are adding more fuel to the fire. Carter knows it too.

“We haven’t played very well. If we’re not scoring, we need to bring in some sustained energy ozone, you know, some routine at-bats and whatnot,” Carter said. “It’s been a real hit and miss for us. Obviously, the offense isn’t there for us right now, so we have to find a way to contribute.”

The Penguins got off to a good start against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. They had the territorial advantage and momentum after the first 20 minutes. However, they were quickly eliminated in the second period and the energy level plummeted sharply in the third period.

The Devils’ first goal came just 1:20 after the Penguins had taken a 1-0 lead. Conceding a goal immediately after scoring has been a persistent problem for this team and it hasn’t diminished no matter how much attention has been paid to it. It happened Friday against the Islanders when Carter’s line was on the ice shortly after the Penguins took a 4-2 lead (in a 5-4 loss), and it happened again Saturday.

The allowed goal was a hodgepodge of errors. Defender Chad Ruhwedel collided with the referee in the corner and Carter spun, trying to defend the net.

Carter’s unforced stumble allowed two Devils to push the puck past goaltender Dustin Tokarski and served as another black mark on the Penguins’ third line.

What can be done?

“For the most part, everyone has been around for the past two years, so I’d like to have an answer for you. I mean, we tried all these combinations and whatnot. I don’t know,” Carter said with a grimace and a puzzled shake of his head.

But Carter probably knows it’s a bigger problem than just the last few months. At 38, he has signed on for one more season, though time is catching up quickly.

Signed to a 35+ year contract with a no-movement clause and no commercial value, there are no answers beyond finding a way, any way, to be productive.

Devastating Penguin Statistics

The statistics on Saturday were ugly. If it was a movie, it would either come with a parental warning or a full adult rating.

Through 40 minutes, the Penguins’ backline, centered by Carter with Kasperi Kapanen and Drew O’Connor, had zero shots, just one try and zero chances on goal, but it brought plenty of goodness to the Devils. The Devils had nine shots against Carter’s line in two quarters and 11 total. They also had six high-danger chances in the first two quarters.

The performance of the back line, and Carter’s in particular, was in stark contrast to the rest of the Penguins lineup, which outscored and outplayed the Devils.

A terse coach, Mike Sullivan, was in no mood to answer the question again after the loss.

This was Sullivan before the game:

“That’s what we’re looking for with that whole line: drive, thoughtful defensive play, and we think if they can help us with the drive side, they’ll get looks. When you look at the identity of our bottom six, we can build some offense just by putting pucks in the net and getting into the paint,” the coach said. “If we can do that more often, I think these guys will get opportunities at net where they can potentially contribute offensively. That is something that has been sporadic and that we need. We would like to see more consistently.”

And this was Sullivan AFTER the game:

“You ask me that question every day. They have moments where they have been good. They have some moments where they haven’t been,” she said with obvious irritation and ended his response there.

No, the question must be asked, although the answers will not be random.

penguins need help

The Penguins are winless this season against the top teams, the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, in the Metro Division. No combination of players on the third line has worked. Brock McGinn hasn’t scored in 22 games and was sent to the fourth line on Saturday after weeks in the third trio.

Kasperi Kapanen is the “top scorer” on the line, with four points in his last 14 games.

Jeff Carter scored a goal against Anaheim eight days ago. It was their first even-strength 5-on-5 count since Oct. 20. However, his season stats are about as dismal as Saturday’s singular effort might suggest.

Carter has 87 shots in 52 games, which is on pace to easily be the worst of his 18-year career. His 20 points is also on pace to be his worst in a full season.

It’s not easy to see the deeper struggles of a player with 426 career goals, two Stanley Cups and who is generally well regarded in the locker room.

But here we are.

Energy or offensive contributions from the third row would have gone a long way towards a better result on both Friday and Saturday. Instead, the line was scored three times (twice on Friday and once on Saturday).

Unfortunately, it appears to be time for some unsavory answers for the Penguins’ third-string center.

The crater is getting deeper and deeper.

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