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Penguins Get Rude Refresher to Playoff Hockey

I wonder when the Penguins flew back to the East Coast early this morning after their shootout win in Anaheim they collectively got light bulbs popping up in their heads:

"Damn, the Blackhawks, Sharks and Ducks sure beat us up all game long"

"Damn, the Blackhawks, Sharks and Ducks didn't barely give us any space in their zone"

"Damn, we gave up a lot of shots, while having an embarrassingly low amount of shots on goal"

And then, hopefully:

"Oh yeah, that's how we keep losing in the playoffs!"

Or shall I say, Penguins fans had better hope they realized that.

Let's be clear:  This isn't just coming from me.  There have been similar sentiments opined from the most of the Penguins beat writers and media over the last couple weeks.

First was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Dejan Kovacevic:

Seriously, isn't it about time, instead of Pittsburghers making excuses legit or otherwise, instead of debating linemates or strategy, instead of bowing before the opponents' goalie or system, that Crosby and Malkin just rise above it all?

Isn't that what great players do?

Then came WXDX's Mark Madden, with this doozy of a statement:

The Penguins are on their way to being remembered like the Atlanta Braves of the ‘90s. Lots of talent. No guts. Lots of little wins. Not enough big wins. Underachievers. Paper champions. Regular-season warriors.

And finally the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Joe Starkey, after the Penguins failed to land Vancouver's Ryan Kesler:

Honestly, it's not about the star they did not get.

It's about the stars they still have.

Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal and Marc-Andre Fleury are the Penguins' highest-paid players (along with injured defenseman Paul Martin). Isn't it about time those guys did something other than fall apart and fail to produce in the biggest games of all?

Pretty striking, if you ask me.  No beating around the bush with those statements.

It's plainly obvious even to a schmuck like me what the blueprint has now become to beating the Penguins:

  • Play extremely physical, especially on Crosby, Malkin and Neal.  And most likely, your team will reap the retaliatory penalties as a result.  And by the way, don't worry about your own guys, most of the Pens won't lay a hand on them.
  • Pepper Marc-Andre Fleury with shots from every conceivable angle.
  • Collapse around your net, let the Penguins play Globetrotter around the perimeter.

Without defensemen Paul Martin and Kris Letang in the lineup, the Pens have given up an unusually alarming number of shots.  40 to Chicago, 47 to San Jose, 31 to Anaheim.  They hope to get Martin back before the end of the regular season, but it's not looking like Letang will be back this season.

Offensively, it's becoming frustrating watching Meadowlark and Curly, I mean, Crosby and Malkin and the rest, pass up shot after shot, game after game.  The result?  19 shots against Nashville, 22 against San Jose, 17 against Anaheim.

Some may say, hey that's the Western Conference, much stronger than the East this year.  Penguins won't have to worry about them until they make the Cup Finals.  Or shall I say, IF they make it that far.  But I disagree.  What I just described sure reminded me of the series against the Bruins last year.

These playoff hockey reminders will continue this coming week, when the Penguins face back-to-back matchups with both Washington and Philadelphia.

It's the perfect time for the Penguins to start playing playoff hockey.  Or else, as Madden said, the Pens' likeness to the Atlanta Braves will get even more similar.

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Comments

Avatar

I blame management, from Mario through Shero through Bylsma for the mess.  You’re exactly right—great regular season teams but lousy post season efforts.

Start with Mario.  He always preferred the country club method of running the organization.  He and his mates ran Bowman out of town so the lovable Eddie Johnston could be brought back.  He retired when he realized for once that they needed discipline and brought Therrien in.

But Rejean and the players quickly tired of Therrien’s tyrannical ways.  Dan Bylsma was brought in to reestablish the country club.  Oh, it was great at first.  The players felt like a yoke had been lifted and won the Cup.  It has gone downhill ever since as the country club atmosphere has taken hold.

The team that used to be tough to play against has now become one of the easiest.  In the Cup year, the lineup was dotted with guys like Staal, Cooke, Kennedy, (a much younger) Adams, Talbot, and Fedotenko.  Now they trot out (an old and ineffective) Adams and Glass, and that’s about it for the sandpaper.  That horrendous mix lies solely at the feet of Rejean Shero.  The defense is Charmin soft, with only Bortuzzo and an inept Engelland offering any physicality.  What about Orpik you say?  Yeah, he would if he could keep up with anyone long enough to hit them.

The Bylsma system is also not “tough to play against.”  It’s get the puck and look for a stretch pass.  It’s a clubhouse of no accountability.  Make a bonehead play (yes, I’m looking at you 87 and 71), and don’t miss a shift.  Just go back out there and do the same thing again next shift.  That’s what happens when the coach is buddy-buddy with the players.

I agree with you, Tony, and the quotes you included.  This team is primed to go exactly nowhere again this year because Shero has no idea how to build a team and Bylsma has no idea how to run one.

Posted by Mad City Mike on 03/08/14 at 12:58 PM ET

Avatar

Out in rd. 2 vs. the Rangers.
If not, Boston again.

Posted by fromdowntown on 03/08/14 at 01:09 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

“Damn, the Blackhawks, Sharks and Ducks sure beat us up all game long”

Remember Tony…the Blackhawks and the Sharks have personnel on their staff that beat the Pens in ‘08 for the Cup…and it seems they apparently still know how to do it.

The Ducks are overrated and I think the Pens can take them…especially if a depleted Wings team knocked them out of the playoffs last year.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 03/08/14 at 01:26 PM ET

Tony's avatar

Good points, MCM and Fluffy….

Posted by Tony from Virginia Beach, VA on 03/08/14 at 02:03 PM ET

SYF's avatar

It’s a different level in playoff hockey.  Pens, as much as I can’t stand them but I do recognize they have terrific players, can take the DuhUcks quite well.  If they can stand up the Flyers, then the DuhUcks are the Flyers of the West.

Posted by SYF from Alana Blanchard's Bikinis and Surfboards on 03/08/14 at 02:39 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

Their goal tender can’t stop a beach ball during the playoffs.

Posted by bigfrog on 03/08/14 at 10:47 PM ET

Avatar

Mad City Mike references a country club mentality, but to me it seems like this team’s being run like a kindergarten class.

Juice boxes, extra nap time in the morning, whiffle ball in the afternoon, participation based on who’s next in line, not who’s best.

Problem is, the roster construction is flawed too. So firing Danny Boy doesn’t really help (when it might have two years ago).

We’ve got a 5’6 minor leaguer on the top line. The softest player in the league centering the third between God knows who, and don’t even get me started on the fourth line. Goc helps, but not nearly enough.

God, I really don’t know how to fix this without about 10 offseason roster moves. This season’s probably kaput. I don’t care how good the Penguins record says they are, they’ll be out in 4 or 5 games, no matter who they play in the first round.

Remember Tony…the Blackhawks and the Sharks have personnel on their staff that beat the Pens in ‘08 for the Cup…and it seems they apparently still know how to do it.

This probably doesn’t have anything to do with anything. The coach whose teams most frequently make the Bylsma Penguins look foolish is Pete DeBoer. His Panthers and his Devils both made a habit of smoking us.

And, in any event, the roster makeup and “system” in 2014 is nothing like it was in 2008.

Posted by larry on 03/09/14 at 07:33 PM ET

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Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes.  I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

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