Penguins coach Mike Sullivan calls out Erik Karlsson

The Penguins bench boss thinks EK65 isn't playing his best hockey.



The Pittsburgh Penguins are in a funk right now, having lost ground in the tightly packed Eastern Conference playoff race by dropping their most recent game to the visiting Los Angeles Kings by a 2-1 final score. 

As of right now, the Penguins sit at 55 points, good for 2nd last in the Metropolitan Division ahead of only the Columbus Blue Jackets. And it could soon be a very difficult period of transition for the franchise, as their famed trio of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are all on the wrong side of 35 years of age and are not getting any younger.

Meanwhile, their prize offseason acquisition in reigning Norris Trophy winning defenseman Erik Karlsson has had lukewarm results, as he's nowhere near the point pace that he enjoyed last season. And according to head coach Mike Sullivan, there's another level that Karlsson can reach that he just hasn't done this year.

“Obviously, he’s an elite player and a really talented guy, and a guy that drives a lot of offense whether 5-on-5 or the power play,” Sullivan said of Karlsson. “That’s what he’s done in his body of work in the league. That’s what he’s done for us. You know, I still think there’s another level of Karl that we’re trying to unlock here; I think it’s an important element of us having success moving forward.”

Meanwhile, Karlsson acknowledges that the Penguins are essentially playing for their playoff lives right now. 

“I think it’s been feeling like that for six weeks, maybe. But yeah, it’s been feeling like that for a while,” said Karlsson. “And it’s tough to play under those circumstances. But that’s the circumstance that we’re in. I think with the group that we have here, it’s been handled as good as we possibly can. I don’t think that we’ve had the result that we wanted. You know, there are various reasons for that, I’m sure. But I think that one thing that I’ve seen is the resilience, and the belief has never really wavered.”

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