Hot goalies keeping lid on Penguins offense
DALLAS — The Pittsburgh Penguins caught a break when the Dallas Stars decided starting goalie Ben Bishop, who leads the league with a .932 save percentage this season, would get Saturday night off.
Yeah, some break.
Instead, they were to face backup Anton Khudobin, who is eighth in the league with a .925 save percentage.
That’s been par for the course lately for the Penguins, who have faced a murderer’s row of hot goaltenders in the past couple of weeks.
Before they left for a four-game road trip, they ran into rookie sensations Jordan Binnington of St. Louis and Carter Hart of Philadelphia in back-to-back games.
Binnington leads the league with a 1.79 goals-against average this season. Hart has a .946 save percentage since returning from an injury that kept him out of the Stadium Series game against the Penguins.
The first two goalies they faced on the trip were Carolina’s Petr Mrazek and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. Mrazek is 9-3-0 with a .935 save percentage since Feb. 1. Rinne is the defending Vezina Trophy winner.
Perhaps as a result, the Penguins have managed a total of six goals over the past four games.
Anytime players run into a stretch where they’re being shut down by a series of hot goaltenders, they must look in the mirror and give an honest assessment of their game.
Is it really appropriate to tip their caps to the opposing netminder, or is it is simply being used as an excuse for poor offensive performance?
In this case, coach Mike Sullivan is taking a lot more from column A than column B.
“We try not to use anything as an excuse,” he said. “We try to see things for what they are and look at it as objectively as we can.
“We’re still generating quality scoring chances,” Sullivan continued. “Are there areas where we can improve? Sure, but I think every team could say the same thing. We’ve got to get more net traffic, we’ve got to get inside the dots, we’ve got to look for rebounds and second-chance opportunities, things of that nature. It’s not like we’re not generating scoring chances. We are. We just have to stay with it.”
Center Nick Bjugstad said the Penguins need to use tried-and-true methods to crack the quality goaltenders they’ve been facing.
“When you’ve got a good goalie, take his eyes away,” Bjugstad said. “We talk about it all the time. It’s a huge thing. Goalies are so good and so big nowadays. To beat them point-blank is pretty hard. They’re pretty good. You’ve got to find ways to get dirty goals.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .