The Pittsburgh Penguins: Striking a Balance Between Success and Setbacks

Hockey can be maddening. In no other sport can you do mostly everything right, but a few small weaknesses can have an outsized effect if they’re spaced out correctly. Go 0-fer on the power play, or don’t get a save at the right time, or give up the wrong odd-man rush in overtime, face too many hot goalies in a week, and suddenly it feels like all the good things a team does have been washed away.

Or, you can just boot it into your own net when you’re feeling spicy. That’s basically how it’s gone for Pittsburgh so far, finding ways to lose in games they should be winning, which is why they find themselves buried in the wild-card race at the moment, needing to make up five points and climb over four teams to get back into the frame. When Pens fans aren’t just cursing the gods for making the sport this way, the rest of their ire is being aimed at Ryan Graves, who has spent half the season torpedoing Kris Letang and the other half of the season torpedoing Erik Karlsson when he’s paired with him. Both Letang and Karlsson see their metrics jump up five to seven percentage points when they escape the clutches of Graves and his walkabouts in his own zone. You don’t have to know what Game Score is in hockey to understand this sucks out loud: Doesn’t mean the Pens have to score on themselves, though. Time’s running out, and this ship really needs to get turned. Tough night for Kostyuk Coco Gauff crawled out of her quarterfinal match at the Aussie Open last night, which is sometimes how a player has to advance. Both her and Marta Kostyuk were very scratchy. Neither could buy a first serve for most of the match, which meant they were passing each other service breaks like a joint. Kostyuk was able to get Gauff’s forehand to break down with repeated drilling of the ball to that side, but then in the third set Gauff got everything in Kostyuk’s game to break down. The Ukrainian Kostyuk spent most of the match looking like she wanted to put her head through a wall, throwing her racket a couple times and pleading with her player’s box after every error (of which there were a ton, 56 to be exact). The ESPN broadcast didn’t hesitate to point out that Kostyuk’s rep within the locker room is that she can lose it mentally pretty easily, and there more than a few to her being “mentally unstable” on the court. Keeping it together between the ears is perhaps the biggest part of tennis, but those on the call might want to take care that Kostyuk is still only 21, but also there’s . . . Feels like she’s dealing with just a little bit more than most every player on tour at the moment. The defense rests I’ve heard tale told that Luka Doncic had worked on his defense this season. Jaylen Brown apparently hasn’t. Considering that one guy went for 62 points and another guy went for 70 last night, Doncic can take cover in that the NBA has hit the midseason malaise where a lot of people can’t locate a fornication to give on the defensive end. Still, try to stay off your ass, Luka. Follow Sam on Twitter @Felsgate and on Bluesky