Rob Scuderi had a certain look about him Tuesday night.
He had a similar one in Edmonton in early January.
Then, he took issue with the way the Penguins were playing, comparing it to “Harlem Globetrotter hockey.”
Now, he is taking issue with they way they are not playing,” insisting the Penguins lacked “passion.”
In each of these instances, Scuderi sought to deliver a message through the media.
As Yohe recalled, after a 4-3 overtime loss at Edmonton on Jan. 10, Scuderi stood near his stall, hands on his hips, and looked for a familiar face. That face belonged to Yohe, to whom Scuderi aired his frustration.
Tuesday night, after the Penguins fell, 3-2, at home to Phoenix, Scuderi again stood by his stall, this time holding a mesh bag containing his soaked laundry. Again, Scuderi had a message to deliver.
Scuderi returned to the Penguins this summer because he believed they had a chance to again win the Stanley Cup. He still believes that.
That is why he has taken two opportunities to deliver damning words about this group.
In eight years as the primary beat reporter for the Tribune-Review, I had heard a lot of postgame comments from players – enough of them that I have made a promise rarely to pay them much attention.
I had never heard a player question his club’s collective “passion” until Tuesday night.
Post-game interviews are often emotional times, and what players say after them does not significantly contribute to the actual narrative of the club.
Scuderi was NOT emotional in Edmonton or after this loss to Phoenix. He was deliberate, and for that reason his words should be taken seriously.
He does believe the Penguins can win the Stanley Cup.
He also knows they will not win one playoff series if they do not show some life.
My working theory on the Penguins is that some of these players, ones that have won the Cup, have looked at this particular squad and assessed that the goods are not there to win it again. Basically, the former champions among this group sense this is not a title team.
That theory is gaining more credence by the day.
That is why Scuderi, a two-time Cup winner, spoke again Tuesday night.
That is why Brook Orpik, knowing this is likely his last season with the Penguins, by all accounts chastised his teammates in a closed-door meeting.
That is why Craig Adams, also a two-time Cup winner, has been publicly lamenting the Penguins’ problem spots – focus and discipline – for weeks.
That is why captain Sidney Crosby flashed a stone-cold scowl as he exited the dressing room after speaking with the media on Tuesday night. Crosby said the Penguins had not recovered from an emotional loss to St. Louis on Sunday.
The playoffs are all about recovering. Crosby knows that. So do Scuderi, Orpik and Adams.
So does coach Dan Bylsma, who said he takes “no joy from losing.”
A lot of Penguins with their names etched in silver know there are problems – potentially fatal ones – with this squad.
Passion, though, never seemed like it would be one. If it is, there is no reason to believe there is hope.
Be EXCELLENT to each other,