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Mark Madden: The stubborn Penguins are in danger of losing the playoffs

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The penguins are in trouble. It’s not too early to say that.

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In fact, it may be delayed early.

All that can go wrong is. Their recent seven-game losing streak was the headliner.

But the devil is in the details for the Penguins, and the New Jersey Devils are 13-3. They did not participate in the playoffs last year. They will this year. Islanders of New York might also fit this description. This is bad news for the local team.

The Penguins lost a one-goal lead three times in a 5-4 overtime loss on Saturday in Montreal. They squandered epic leads, most notably a 5-2 advantage in a 6-5 loss at home to Boston on November 1 and a 3-1 advantage in a 6-3 defeat by Buffalo the next night.

The Penguins conceded goals in the first and last minutes of the second period during Tuesday’s 5-2 home loss against Toronto.

Sidney Crosby’s streak was on the ice for all five goals allowed against the Maple Leafs.

Failed pinch-hits and activation of defensemen gave the Leafs frequent solo breaks.

Defensive zone coverage was rotten. In Toronto’s first goal, John Tavares looked confused by his time and space when he pucked into the slot.

The Penguins are 6-7-3 and four points off the Eastern Conference’s second and final wild card berth. It doesn’t sound like much. But there are five differences between the penguins and that spot. The losing point turns catching up into trampling sludge.

Landing penguins is not a new development.

As hockey writer Josh Yohee noted on Twitter, the Penguins are 16-20-5 since last season’s trade deadline. That’s 41 games, half a season, and a 74-point pace. Yak.

Biggest problem: Penguins are no longer fast. Even worse, they think they are.

They are fast enough to handle teams that are getting old, like Washington. But Toronto, for one, was racing near and around the Penguins all Tuesday night. The difference in speed against Edmonton, for example, is embarrassing.

This space often indicates that these older penguins are adjusting their high-octane, always attacking style.

Now, this proposal is not just an adjustment. It’s about survival.

But they won’t. That was evident again on Saturday in Montreal.

On Friday, the Penguins wisely pulled off their third period victory in Toronto. They got the disc deep and spun down.

On Saturday, they did the opposite and continued to pull the strings. They are determined to hang with their own rope.

That must be respected in a strange sense. It’s easy to understand in the context of keeping the essence of Crosby, Chris Letang, and Evgeni Malkin together. The core of the Penguins and head coach Mike Sullivan will be true to their vision, and what has previously worked admirably.

Even when they go alert.

Even Friday’s well-managed win in Toronto contained what is now a typical Penguins moment.

With nearly five minutes left and the Penguins up by one, defenseman Chad Rohwedel joined the race. The puck flipped and Toronto got a break on the single, which was thwarted by the Penguins frantically chasing it.

Ruhwedel has 11 goals in 271 NHL games. His offensive skills are less than marginal. Why would he join the rush at all, let alone in this situation? The same goes for half of their defensive corps.

Because that’s how penguins play. This is their system.

They’ll ride it all the way to hell.

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