Plenty of questions around Pens' defense

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
11:20
PM ET

Four and a half years ago, Michel Therrien stood behind the podium after another loss by the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins and delivered one of the best postgame tirades in NHL history.

If you don't remember it, here it is.

My favorite moment was when he said he believed the goal of the team was to be the worst defensive squad in the NHL.

Current Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma should have borrowed the script from that famous postgame address and delivered it word for word Thursday night after a 7-4 loss at home to the Boston Bruins. The third-period collapse by the Penguins made you wonder if these guys aren't also hoping to be one of the worst defensive squads in the NHL.

For two periods, the Penguins looked terrific. A 4-2 lead through 40 minutes was well-earned. A 34-20 shots advantage spurred on my colleague Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to even quip that they had so far played their best game ever at Consol Energy Center. And there was no reason to argue with him.

Then came the final period. Swiss-cheese defense by the Pens. Two goals in 15 seconds by Nathan Horton and Zdeno Chara early in the third tied it up 4-4 and sucked the wind out of the Penguins. Shawn Thornton won it for the B's with a nice top-corner wrist shot at 12:40 and the final would be 7-4 visitors. Five unanswered goals for the Bruins. Plenty of questions once again for the Penguins.

Listen, Sidney Crosby has done what he can for this team this season, an MVP-type season so far. His three points Wednesday night gave him a team-leading 22 on the season, second in the NHL only to Steven Stamkos.

But he needs help. Evgeni Malkin, I thought, had a tremendous game after a season that's been disappointing so far, to say the least.

But the defensive play as a team? Yeesh.

When the Penguins brought in Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin on July 1, it was hard not to think that they had among the best blue lines in the East, even with Sergei Gonchar's departure. Those two signings were exactly what Pittsburgh needed after placing 20th in goals against last season.

After Wednesday's effort, the Pens sit 19th out of 30 teams. Not good.

Here's the thing: Brent Johnson finally looked like Brent Johnson. He's been brilliant all season long, a savior almost as Marc-Andre Fleury battled his perplexing demons. But by the time Thornton went top corner on Johnson, you had that feeling that the clock was beginning to run out on Johnson's dream-like run.

The Penguins need Fleury to come out of his funk. It's not October anymore. His team, which fell to under .500 with the loss, needs the Fleury of old. Before it's too late.

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