By: Casey Shea

Welcome to the 2015-16 NHL season hockey fans!

If you’re like me, you waited impatiently all summer for hockey to return. The Pittsburgh Penguins have played three games thus far and if you’re like me, you’re left feeling a tad underwhelmed.

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Three games, three goals, three losses.

That’s where the Penguins stand heading into Thursday’s contest against Ottawa.

There are a number of reasons that could explain the slow start. The most obvious and level-headed explanation is the sheer number of new faces on the squad.

The bottom six forwards alone are almost entirely different from last year. It’s reasonable to assume that it may take a little time for chemistry to build up and for Mike Johnston to figure out the best line combinations.

Let me emphasize this right out of the gate: I’m not ready to hit the panic button after three games.

That said, there are a few worrying things about how this team has started the season.

Namely, I’d like to see some more emotion and desire from the players. We’ve seen flashes of it during these three games, but it’s usually in the third period when they seem to realize they’re losing.

Most of the players, not all, have looked like they are just going through the motions like it’s a preseason game. As we know, the regular season has started. It started a week ago.

Here are my thoughts/concerns after the first week:

 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Crosby Needs To Shoot

This shouldn’t even need to be said, but here we are.

It took Sidney Crosby nearly seven(!) full periods to record a shot on goal this season. The moment finally happened while on a 2-on-1 in the first period against Montreal on Tuesday.

Even then, Crosby was staring at Chris Kunitz the entire time. Was he looking off Carey Price in an attempt to catch him leaning the wrong way? It’s certainly possible, but by the time Crosby decided to pull the trigger, it was his only option and Price had the angle shut down.

He would go on to finish the game with four shots on net, including one that was spectacularly saved by Price late the third period. The save prompted this tweet from the Canadiens:

Anyway, there appears to be a curious thing happening with the addition of Phil Kessel to Crosby’s wing.

For years, we’ve seen countless players defer to Crosby instead of taking a shot or making a better pass. Now, we’re seeing Crosby defer to Kessel.

The fact is, Kessel is going to get his goals. The best thing Crosby can do is put the puck on net. You know, give the opposition something to think about when defending the two of them.

 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Need Better Starts

The Penguins have looked pretty flat to start all three games so far. Why?

One could make the argument that opening up on the road against two teams welcoming their fans back for the first time had something to do with it. Both Dallas and Arizona came out flying in the first period. That was especially true against the Coyotes, where the first 10 minutes were an all-out shooting gallery on Marc-Andre Fleury.

But, where was that same intensity from the Penguins in their home-opener Tuesday?

They managed a mere four shots on net in the first period and trailed 1-0 at the intermission.

Granted, the second period was better (they scored two goals!), but they laid another egg in the third period.

It’s also worth noting that the Penguins haven’t held a lead for a single second this season.

 (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

“Power” Play Woes

The Penguins’ power play should be keeping opposing goaltenders up at night, but it’s not. Instead, it’s keeping me up at night wondering how in the world a power play boasting the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Kessel, Letang and (insert player here) hasn’t scored yet.

For their first few chances, Crosby and Malkin were on different power play lines. In theory, it kind of made sense to try and balance out the two units.

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From what we’ve seen, it was worthy of a Bad Idea Jeans ad:

They have since been reunited and the power play still hasn’t lit the lamp.

Why? Again, several reasons, but one major factor is their inability to effectively enter the offensive zone.

If they win a faceoff in the offensive zone, they generally get set up quickly. However, it’s taking far too long for them to get set up again after a defensive clear.

For example, on their first full two-minute power play against Montreal, it took the Penguins upwards of a minute to regain control in the offensive zone after the Canadiens cleared the puck – once.

The Penguins keep getting bogged down in the neutral zone, which makes the penalty killers’ job much easier.

One problem is chipping the puck deep when the forwards have to pull up at the blue line because the puck carrier is gliding through the neutral zone. It’s never going to be effective.

Another issue is over-passing in the neutral zone, which isn’t anything new, but still persists.

The other is a puck carrier thinking they can weave through three penalty killers.

Simply put, the power play entries are predictable, stale and need an overhaul.

 (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Marc-Andre Fleury Picking Up Where He Left Off

Sure, giving up a goal on the first shot of the season stings a little bit, but Fleury has been one of the few bright spots so far.

Against Arizona, he was the ONLY reason the Coyotes didn’t turn the game into a laugher inside the first 10 minutes.

Fleury has more than done his part to keep his team in these games so far. He’s bailed out his teammates time and time again after horrid turnovers. The only thing he hasn’t done is score, but neither are his teammates so that’s a wash.

For example, the toe save he made in the third period on Dale Weiss was flat out ridiculous.

No one was more appreciative than Olli Maatta, who whiffed on the puck in the corner, which led to the chance.

Again, Fleury is doing his part, it’s time for the rest of the team to start doing theirs.

 (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Mike Johnston On The Hot Seat?

Like I stated above, it’s only been three games. Last I checked, it was an 82-game grind. The people calling for Johnston’s head already need to calm down a wee bit.

Do some things need to change? Absolutely.

If you’ve made it this far (thanks!), you know where I stand. Is a coaching change three games into the season the right move? Probably not. At least, not yet.

At bare minimum, he has to be given a little bit of time to try and figure this out. I’m not saying he gets until April to do so, but maybe more than a week would seem reasonable.

Like the fans, I can’t imagine the ownership group would be pleased to this point, but three games?

I’m sure those select fans breaking out pitchforks and torches mean well, but don’t you think it’s a little early for the dramatics?

Here’s hoping the Penguins turn things around, starting tonight against Ottawa.

Check back every Thursday for more observations. You can follow me on Twitter here!

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