The Rink Report: Pens head into all-star break on losing streak

Written By Anthony Cugini, Sports Columnist

The Pittsburgh Penguins finished up a subpar week on Saturday after a 6-4 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

Despite strong games from Pens’ superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh lost their second straight game. Malkin finished the game with three points while Crosby added  two. 

The Penguins only win of the week was a 7-6 victory over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday in overtime. It was a back and forth affair as neither team was able to pull away from the other and both goaltenders struggled to get the job done.. Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith  had a blunder which led to a goal in the first period.

DeSmith was caught in no man’s land as he attempted to beat a racing Florida Panther to the puck, but Panther’s Carter Verhaeghe beat DeSmith  and was able to flip the rubber over the goalie and into the net. 

Tuesday also marked the first game back  for star defenseman Kris Letang. Letang made his presence known in his return and recorded two goals and two assists — including the game winning goal in overtime. .

As for  Casey DeSmith, his subpar game on Tuesday foreshadowed the rest of the week. DeSmith had to handle the starting job as Tristan Jarry was ruled out until after the All-Star break. 

DeSmith was phenomenal through three periods and the overtime period against the

Washington Capitals on Thursday as he made 43 saves on 45 shots heading into the shootout. DeSmith made the first save against T.J. Oshie before he completely fell apart. He was nowhere near stopping either Evgeny Kuznetsov or Marcus Johansson, which led to a shootout loss for the Pens.

 Unfortunately,the goalkeeper could not find his groove on Saturday against the Sharks as he let in five goals on 31 shots.

With the trade deadline  about a month away, the Penguins’ needs are clear; need another goaltender. Casey DeSmith playing mediocre  hockey on top of already having injury issues with Tristan Jarry is a recipe for disaster.

Though it’s easy to identify the Pens’ needs, it’s not as easy to address them. There aren’t many goalies on the trading block that would be an improvement over DeSmith. General Manager Ron Hextall will have his work cut out for him as he’ll have to put together a new plan if he wants Pittsburgh to be serious contenders for a Stanley Cup. 

The Pens sit just one point behind the Washington Capitals for the first Wild Card spot, but the Buffalo Sabres are right on Pittsburgh’s tail as they’re one point behind the Penguins.. 

The race for the Wild Card spots will be an interesting one as the 412 hockey team is one of four teams vying for the last playoff spot in the East. 

Pittsburgh hopes to regroup over the next nine days as their next game won’t be until February 7. They’ll host the Colorado Avalanche at 7p.m