by Tony on 04/28/11 at 11:57 AM ET
I guess I take consolation in the fact that all but one team’s bloggers have to write “The Morning After” article. That’s something.
Doesn’t really matter in which playoff round your respective team gets eliminated. Unless your team is the one that’s hoisting the Stanley Cup in June, you will eventually write this article, and yeah, it sucks.
But now that the emotions have mostly died down after a night of tossing and turning, I’ll attempt to look at the Penguins’ playoff loss to Tampa Bay, as well as their wacky season, in perspective.
As I wrote on Twitter after the game, if that game last night wasn’t a microcosm of the second half of the Penguins’ season, I don’t know what is.
Zero finishers, barely any secondary scoring and a completely broken power play. That said, stick-tap to Dwayne Roloson. Although I have to say that I really don’t feel that the Penguins really
him very much throughout the series, meaning the vast majority of shots were from the perimeter directly into his chest, he did what he had to do.
But let’s reflect:
- Going into the Jan. 1st Winter Classic, the Penguins were 25-11-3, at or near the top of the NHL. Sidney Crosby was having a career year, with 31 goals and 65 points in only 40 games. Evgeni Malkin wasn’t having his typical year, but he still had 15 goals in 43 games. Marc-Andre Fleury had rebounded from a 1-6 start to lead the Penguins to a 12-game winning streak from Nov. 17th to Dec. 11th. Things were going fantastic for the Penguins.
Then, things slowly but surely started to unravel on Jan. 1st when Crosby was “accidently” blind-sided by David Steckel, then hit from behind by Victor Hedman four days later. That would be the last time we would see Crosby on the ice. Malkin went down on Feb. 4th, the victim of a fluke collison between he and the Sabres’ Tyler Myers, with a torn ACL & MCL (although I believe in surgery the injury was deemed not as severe).
- Since Crosby went down, coupled with Malkin’s season-ending injury, to the Penguins’ credit, they went 24-14-5. That level of what can only be described as over achievement cannot be minimized. Perhaps it was best exemplified by Faceoff Factor’s Jesse Marshall, who Tweeted “Take the Sedin’s off of Vancouver, the Joe’s off of SJ, Toews and Kane off of Chi. Do they make it this far? Testament to this team.” I would also add, to a lesser extent, Zetterberg and Datsyuk off the Red Wings. They still have lots of horses to somewhat overcome it if need be.
The Pens’ gameplan of a stifling forecheck and a suffocating defense was shifted into high gear after 87 and 71 went down. They were winning ugly, but they were winning. Players like Tyler Kennedy, who was criticized around the Penguins’ blogosphere (including this one), ended up having a career year with 21 goals. Chris Kunitz finished strong with 23 goals. Fleury continued his stellar play, to the point where many in the NHL media were proclaiming that Fleury should be at least in the discussion for MVP.
- But in the end, it was the lack of any semblance of secondary scoring and the absence of any finishers that resulted in their downfall. As I wrote previewing Game 7, without Crosby and Malkin, this is how the Penguins’ roster was constructed. It was almost completely relying on 87/71. It was 87/71, and everyone else. Now, of course, no one could have foreseen that both Crosby and Malkin would be lost for the year. But the fact remains that the offensive talent that remained after the Crosby and Malkin injuries was insufficient to make a sustained playoff run.
- The powerplay is an absolute disgrace. And let me be more specific, I’m not just referring to the horrible performance during the Tampa series,
I’m talking about parts of the last three seasons!
Before this season, the easy scapegoat was Assistant Coach Mike Yeo. But Yeo left Pittsburgh to take a head coaching position in the AHL. I freely admit now, I bashed Yeo, and now that I’ve seen the Penguins’ woeful powerplay without him for a season, I fall on my sword and admit I was completely wrong. There is absolutely no doubt now that
this is a systemic problem, and it needs completely revamped
. The Penguins have two of the top 10 players in the world on their first powerplay unit, and they can’t finish higher than 19th in the league on the powerplay? That is systemic, folks. The Penguins’ management needs to come to the realization that they need to hire an advisor/coach whose responsibility is the powerplay. It simply has gotten out of control, and they are throwing too many games away because of it.
- Lastly, I’m not touching free agency for at least a month. Let the playoffs work themselves out, as well as the emotions of the Penguins’ exit subside. It will be a very interesting conversation, though, that’s for sure.
That’s about it. Of course, now that the Pens season is over, the frequency of my posts will go down, but before you know it, the draft will be close, as well as free agency. October can’t come soon enough for a healthy Penguins’ squad, especially for their fans.
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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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