At the start of the NHL season, I praised the Pittsburgh Penguins for winning the games they needed to win in an effort to bank points early.
In other words, build a cushion before the oldest team in hockey wore down late in the season and suffered too many injuries.
But that 4-0-1 start has given way to a seven-game losing streak. And no one seems to have the answers to fix the problems.
Even Mark Madden of TribLIVE and 105.9 the X.
“I remain convinced the Penguins are a playoff team,” Madden said during this week’s “Madden Monday” podcast. “I remain convinced the Penguins will play their way out of this. I just am not convinced of how they are going to do it.”
A big issue facing the Pens right now is a lack of salary-cap flexibility.
“Their roster is frozen,” Madden said. “You can talk about making changes. There are no changes to be made. People talk about trading Brian Dumoulin. Who is going to take Brian Dumoulin the way he has been playing and on his contract ($4.1 million)?”
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If you are looking at a coaching change, Madden said don’t bother.
“Mike Sullivan is not going to get fired. I’m not suggesting he should. But he is signed for many years to come (through 2027), pretty much paralleling the term of the Big 3 (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang). I think they are going to dig their way out of it. I just don’t know how,” Madden said.
If you are looking for blame, though, Madden said that’s an easy one to diagnose.
“In terms of scapegoats, you have got to start with the Big 3 because this is what they wanted,” Madden said. “They wanted to stay together, be the ‘Three Amigos,’ spend their whole career as teammates and Penguins. I admre that. But the team has an old look about it. They play bad third periods.”
To Madden’s point, the Pens have blown third-period leads to lose against the likes of Montreal, Boston and Buffalo.
Also in the podcast, Madden and I discuss the woes of the Steelers, the Jets’ upset of the Bills and Kyrie Irving’s situation.
Listen: Tim Benz and Mark Madden talk Penguins, Steelers
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.