Therrien still feels secure despite 7th loss in past 8 games
Sidney Crosby skates off as Colorado celebrates its 5-3 victory yesterday in Denver.
David Jones scored twice, including one in the third period less than a minute after the Penguins pulled within 4-3.
Share with others:
DENVER -- Penguins coach Michel Therrien has watched his team lose seven of its past eight games and tumble to 10th in the Eastern Conference standings.
He knows as well as anyone that something has to change -- dramatically and quickly -- if the Penguins are to salvage their season.
But, when asked in the wake of the Penguins' 5-3 loss to Colorado at the Pepsi Center yesterday if he felt his job security is an issue, Therrien made it clear that he doesn't believe it is. Or should be.
"No," he said. "Why? I'm not worried about that."
No coach has complete control over his fate, of course, but general manager Ray Shero repeatedly has said that replacing Therrien is not on his radar.
Of course, skidding so far through the conference wasn't, either, and, when ownership agreed to a payroll that flirts with the salary-cap maximum of $56.7 million, it presumably had something more than a possible run at a low-end playoff seed in mind.
Shero also has expressed reluctance to make a trade simply because his team is struggling -- he prefers, understandably, to swing a deal that would benefit his team under any circumstances, not just the current ones -- but a move that would shake up the lineup can't be ruled out, either.
The players, though, insist they are not waiting for Shero to make any sort of move, and that there is no sense of an impending overhaul among their teammates.
"There's definitely no talk about it in the dressing room," forward Jordan Staal said. "We definitely believe that we have the personnel and the guys to do it in this dressing room. We're not waiting for Ray to do anything."
A lot of other people appear to be, however, based on how often it turns up in postgame conversations these days.
"The only reason any of that is being discussed, or we're being asked about it, is because we're playing so poorly," defenseman Ryan Whitney said.
Well, yeah, there is that. The one thing the Penguins have done consistently well for the past five weeks or so is to find ways to lose.
Regardless of whether it requires giving up a soft goal or two, a few blown coverages or some shabby special-teams play, the Penguins have made it happen with distressing regularity.
"I think it's just focus," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "A lot of time, we have a guy, but we don't have the guy. We're there, but we're not covering him."
That's part of the reason the Avalanche never trailed yesterday, even though the Penguins got pretty good output from their No. 1 line.
Therrien put Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby together -- first with Petr Sykora, and later Max Talbot -- from the start of the game and was rewarded with a goal and assist by each.
"We want to make sure we're doing our part when we're put together," Crosby said. "It's a message to us that we have to produce. When we're put together, we want to try to make things happen."
They did. Trouble is, Malkin got his after Ryan Smyth had given Colorado a 1-0 lead, while Crosby scored after David Jones had put the Avalanche up, 2-1.
The only goal the Penguins got after that was a short-handed one by Staal in the middle of the third period, but that wasn't enough to offset the ones Wojtek Wolski, Cody McLeod and Jones scored for Colorado during the second half of the game.
And so, for the second game in a row, the Penguins allowed an opponent that had been struggling to generate meaningful offense to score five times.
"We have to play better defensively," Therrien said. "We can't allow four or five goals a game."
Oh, but they can. And they do.
Which is why Staal, now in his third season, said, "I don't think I've ever had [a stretch like this] since I've been here." And why so many people -- outside the organization, anyway -- are expecting the front office to do something significant to alter the course of a season that seems to be spiraling out of control.
"I don't feel that," Crosby said. "It's not easy when you're losing and I don't expect everyone to have a smile on their face and be happy with the way we're playing, because we shouldn't be. But I don't think anyone's waiting for anything."
First Published January 11, 2009 12:00 am