Sifting Through The Madness Of The Penguins Injury Crisis

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 07: Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates out onto the ice before the NHL game against the New Jersey Devils at Consol Energy Center on January 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Devils defeated the Penguins 3-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Add Craig Adams, James Neal and Jordan Staal to the Penguins' injury list. Just as things are looking brighter, someone turns off the lights.

Twitter is often enlightening. It can also be incredibly depressing.

Sunday was filled with those thoroughly-depressing moments. Josh Yohe kicked it off as he tweeted from Penguins practice early on.

Craig Adams was being helped off the ice. He hurt is knee in a way that was described as "badly."

That was the best of the news he broke.

Jordan Staal hurt his knee against the New York Rangers. He would be out four-to-six weeks. James Neal broke his foot against the New Jersey Devils. He would be out for "weeks."

Mike Colligan made sure we knew that the Penguins now have $20 million out of the lineup due to injury.

How that's supposed to help fans' morale, I don't know. Where's the positive spin?

Here, let me show you how it's done. Let's focus on some good news.

Kris Letang has begun skating. So have Arron Asham and Dustin Jeffrey. They've all suffered various maladies. Asham could be ready when the Ottawa Senators come to town on Tuesday. Or he couldn't. I have no idea. I'm sure Jeffrey and Letang won't be.

Sidney Crosby's still lost in limbo. He's been held out for two games as a precautionary measure for 12 games now. So it goes.

Nevermind. None of that worked. I'm still thoroughly depressed.

Well, wait.

There was a bright spot in the Penguins' losses to the Devils and the Rangers. They outshot their opposition a combined 80-48. Dominance.

Except ... the shot count is like the batting average of hockey. It doesn't paint a fair picture of offensive production.

The Penguins' team shooting percentage was 2.5 percent over the two games. The Rangers scored on 14.2 percent of their shots, the Devils on 11.1 percent.

Don't blame Marc-Andre Fleury. Shot charts, which I'm able to link to (vs. New York and vs. New Jersey) but unable to show, tell you all you need to know.

The Penguins' shots are spread all around, with a huge portion coming from the points. Dan Bylsma loves generating offense from his defense, but the Penguins currently lack the offensive impetus at the blue line to make this work.

Shots now come from high and wide because the Penguins have simply lacked the ability to pick apart the opposition with pristine passing. Opponents prey upon a weakened, worn defense. Only one of the six goals the Penguins surrendered in those two games came from above the slot. Defenses are finding holes and exploiting them. The Penguins aren't.

This is eerily familiar.

Mark Madden wondered aloud why Malkin, despite his clear effort and good showing on the ice, had been unable to score a goal in six games before Saturday night. Perhaps it's because he was acting as the playmaker on a line with Neal and Chris Kunitz, two power forwards not known for their passing abilities. Malkin had, after all, still managed to put up seven assists during his six-game "scoreless" streak.

At least Steve Sullivan's healthy, funnily enough. The diminutive winger with the longest history of health trouble of all the Penguins is one of six players yet to miss a game this season. Adams and Neal are on that list as well.

Sullivan's good health actually constitutes some semblance of a punchline in Penguins country, where the only humor to be found is of the dark variety.

In Alan Moore's Watchmen, a character shared an emotionless telling of a joke based upon an old Italian opera.

Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says "Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says "But, doctor...I am Pagliacci." Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains. Fade to black.

There. That outta fix morale.

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