Archive

Humbling loss to Leafs leads to tough practice for Penguins | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Humbling loss to Leafs leads to tough practice for Penguins

Jonathan Bombulie
41223841223847acf3d872dc40cea56f50fb49c8ae9a
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Carl Hagelin (62) trips over the stick of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Frederik Andersen (31) with Nazem Kadri (43) defending during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.

Patric Hornqvist said Mario Lemieux deserves better.

Matt Cullen said the team might have reached a pivotal point.

Mike Sullivan sent a message with his practice plan.

Any hockey team, no matter how accomplished, will suffer some losses over the course of an 82-game NHL season. Most are forgotten in a matter of hours. A select few linger.

This one is lingering for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

About 12 hours after suffering a thorough 5-0 beating at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs at home Saturday night, the Penguins still were smarting as they practiced Sunday afternoon in Cranberry.

“If there was a 50-50 puck, they came up with 80 percent of those, and that’s not acceptable on this team,” Hornqvist said. “We’ve got a great owner and a great organization. We have a chance to win. Those small things — big things — are not acceptable in this room. That’s something we have to change starting today.”

As practice began, Sullivan did not put his team through a series of sprints as punishment for a poor performance. Those days are long gone in the NHL.

Even if bag skates were still en vogue, the Penguins are in the midst of a stretch of five games in nine days. Such measures would probably be counterproductive.

Still, Sullivan left no doubt he wasn’t pleased with the effort his team put forth the night before.

Every drill in the 45-minute workout included an element of skating at a high pace. If it was a two-on-two battle drill with offensive players trying to get a shot off and defensive players trying to prevent one, it was contested over 200 feet, not just the offensive zone. If it was a breakout drill, no one pulled up after the puck crossed the red line.

“I think we’ve got to try to reinforce the details and the work ethic associated with winning, and that was part of the practice today, trying to make sure that we get back to basics and we focus on the process and the details associated with winning,” Sullivan said. “With our team, it starts with skating.”

Winger Carl Hagelin said he viewed the practice as necessary medicine the Penguins needed to take after a bad loss and before a home game with the New Jersey Devils on Monday night.

“It was a tough practice. It was a good practice. It was something we needed,” Hagelin said. “Obviously didn’t skate enough last night. We were watching a lot. We let them do the skating. We definitely needed to do what we did out there today to get ready for tomorrow.”

Sullivan gave no hints of major changes to the team’s tactics or personnel. They’re not looking to overhaul the way they play. They’re simply seeking consistency of effort.

As recently as a week ago, the Penguins were cruising right along.

They finished off an undefeated Canadian road trip with a 9-1 victory in Calgary and a 5-0 blowout in Vancouver. They were 6-1-2, leading the league in goals per game, sitting pretty in first place in the Metropolitan Division.

According to Cullen, Saturday’s loss to Toronto, which came on the heels of a home-and-home sweep by the New York Islanders, was a reminder to the Penguins they haven’t figured it all out just yet.

“I think, honestly, when we look back later in the season, this could be a big turning point for us,” Cullen said. “I hope it is. I think it’s a good wake-up for everybody to see, you know, pucks have been going in and things have been going pretty well, but you can’t take that for granted, No. 1, and we have a lot of areas we can still improve on.”

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.