Looking at the standings I think thier problem is goal scoring. 42 goals in 22 games. You arent going to win a lot of games if your team isnt even averaging 2 goals a game.
I think their problem is in part the same as the capitals. they don't have any defensemen. Yonkman, 4 games, Fortin, 4 games, and Boumedienne, 1 game. That's 3 pretty decent AHL defensemen that are out of the lineup long term. Its hard to play offense when the puck is in your end all the time. Its hard to get odd man breaks and transition offense on the rush when your defensemen are not smooth enough for crisp outlet passes to start those rushes.
Most offense is started on defense and both Portland and Washington are a wasteland in that catagory.
The problem is very clear: You don't score 2 or 3 goals, you don't win. Max has lost more games because the team couldn't muster more than one goal than I care to remember so far this season. Look at his goals against avg and save percentage and you'll have the answer. Max is ok, but he needs a rest sooner or later. I think he's up to 14 games in a row right now. The one positive is that Washington will know how durable he is before this stretch is over.
The vets that portland brought in this year either are hurt or are in a funk (not scoring) or Army wasn't playing them early on (Podknicky, Methot). Of the D-men that are hurt, only Hajt was expected to be in portland for any length of time this year. In a real world, Boumedienne, Fortin and Yonkman either should have been in Washington or on someone else's team. The Defense overall isn't really that bad. Fill a team with grinders and you get this result.
Ouellet has a kept the team in most games and if Portland wasn't the worst offense in the league his 2.38 GAA and .918 S% would have netted him a 13-5 record instead of 5-13. Three of his five wins are shutouts. If the Pirates could score I think those numbers get even better as teams do play tighter with the lead.
All but 2 of the last 12 games have been 1-goal games. One of those being the Hartford game that was a 3-1 loss (all three Hartford goals came in the last 10 mins and one was an empty netter) and the other being a Pirates 4-0 win.
14 one-goal games for the Pirates already this season. As killerbeez said when you fill the team with grinders it makes it hard to score. And as txpd pointed out the D is seriously thin. But as thin as it has been the team has been in most games and I think that goes wholly to Ouellet.
The only three guys who are scoring regularly:
Forbes 7g 10a in 22 games
Whitfield 8g 7a in 24 games
Mink 7g 5 a in 19 games
Zinger and Pudlick have both been solid on D. Zinger earning a lot more time this year. Cutta is his usual up and down. Moments of brilliance and then moments where he looks utterly disinterested.
Fussey is playing primarily as a checking forward and I'm disappointed with his 2 g 5 a but in that role he's done ok. Other then the top line and Mink on occasion most players seem invisible in the offensive end.
Ouellet is the only guy that I even question why he's in the AHL. Last year he had better S% and GAA then Conklin and Raycroft, better S% then Sauve, DiPietro, Huet, and Miller and yet Max hasn't seen a single minute in the NHL this year. Not even a taste just to see what he could do.
Whitfield and Forbes could fill in but both look to have softened from last year. Certainly their chances have faded. Fussey I don't see any reason that he's ready. I know he got called up but I think that was more an ease of roster move then anything else. Mink might have gotten a look but he had a bad groin when Fussey got the recall. Mink would do ok in spot 3rd or 4th line duty. I'm not sure if he could do it everynight as sometimes he doesn't do it in Portland. He does seem to lack some of the edge he played with last year but I bet it would surface with a shot at the NHL.
On D if someone went down I'd give Zinger the ring just because he has really stepped up his game.
Cutta would do ok too but could really use some serious time with under Carlyle's wing. Again he seems to have so much raw talent but just not the mental skills to do it every shift on every night. I liked that he got into a fight the other night but the end result was him getting his bell wrung so I'm not so sure he's up for that again any time soon. Glad to see he's still trying to play tougher. Who knows he's not even 22 yet so he's still got time.