Analysis of a Meltdown In Pittsburgh

 

Crosby (si)

Crosby (si)

It was another disappointing year for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Considered one of the powerhouses of the Eastern Conference with superstar players such as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, The Penguins failed again to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Since winning their Stanley Cup in 09′, their playoffs have looked like this:

2010 – Lost in the 2nd Round

2011 – Lost in the 1st Round

2012 – Lost in the 1st Round

2013 – Lost in the Conference Finals (swept)

2014 – Lost in the 2nd round

Time for Change 

Penguins Ownership made it pretty clear, Playoff failures like the ones above will not be accepted. As of this morning, GM Ray Shero has been fired from the Penguins. Shero did a lot to help get the Pens what they needed to try and win another Cup, like adding Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow last season. But he has also added some other pieces that didn’t exactly fit in Pittsburgh.

“Our ownership group felt that it was time to move in a new direction,” said Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse in a news conference to announce Shero’s ouster. “We feel that new leadership could help us get back on track and achieve our goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”

Dan Bylsma was initially said to have been fired also, but in a sudden change, Penguins ownership decided that the new Penguins GM will decides Bylsma’s fate.

With Bylsma, many say he lost his voice in the locker room. Players kind of “gave up” on him as their coach. It was seen during the Playoffs that he and Sidney Crosby shared some words on the bench as both looked displeased with one another. Which brings us into, why the Penguins failed in this year’s playoffs.

Penguins Collapse

After dropping Game 1 in their series against the New York Rangers on home ice, the Penguins looked like the inferior team. However, they answered back in Games 2, 3, and 4 with amazing performances to grab a 3-1 series lead over the Broadway Blueshirts.

Queue the collapse. The Rangers played a spirited in Game 5, rallied around Martin St. Louis and got the series to 3-2. They did the same thing in Games 6 and 7 to win the series, handing Pittsburgh 3 straight losses (2 on home ice). Why did the Penguins collapse?

#1 Frustration/Sidney Crosby

It was seen on the ice and after Games that the Penguins were a frustrated bunch. Especially Sidney Crosby, like mentioned before, was caught arguing with his coach on the bench, spearing Dominic Moore, trying to fight (yes you read that right), amongst other things. Something you don’t see out of a superstar talent like Crosby. When you’re an all-star player like Sid, and only produce 1 goal in 14 NHL Playoff Games, that spells trouble.

#2 James Neal

Neal was rather quiet in the series for the Penguins, only recording 1 goal, which was in the 2nd period of Game 1. Neal’s struggles could due to his normal center-ice man, Evgeni Malkin, was moved up to Sidney Crosby’s line to try and generate more offense. But Neal was the kind of player who had 3 20+ seasons in Dallas without a world class talent at his side, so his lack of production hurt more than you think.

#3 Alain Vingeault out-coached Dan Bylsma

Rangers coach, Alain Vingeault may not have a Cup, but he’s been to the Cup Final and has had much success in his years with the Vancouver Canucks. It was pretty clear that he was out-coaching Bylsma, especially in the last 3 games. With 2 of the games being home games for the Pens, you would think they would always get the matchup they wanted on the ice, considering they get last change. But that never seemed to be the case, as the Rangers constantly had out there who they wanted against the Pens top guns.

#4 Depth

Depth may have been the biggest deciding factor of this series. Alain Vingeault has stated that the reason his team failed in the 2010 Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins, was because of his inability to roll 4 lines. Well that seemed to be the case for the Penguins in this year’s playoffs.

Outside of their top 2 lines with Crosby, Malkin, Neal and Jokinen, the Penguins bottom 2 were just not that good. They did get production out of Brandon Sutter and Brian Gibbons but most of their damage was done on Special Teams for the Pens, as the Rangers seemed to be the superior team 5 v 5. But lets be real here, 8 forwards won’t get the job done.

#5 Lack of Scoring

In the Penguins final 3 games, they only mustered 3 goals and were outscored 10-3.

Crosbys stat line in the series : (1 goal, 2 assists, -3)

Malkins stat line in the series : (3 goals, 4 assists, +5)

Kunitz’ stat line in the series : (1 goal, 2 assists, -1)

Neals stat line in the series : (1 goal, 2 assists, +3)

Letangs stat line in the series : (1 goal, 4 assists, +5)

The league’s regular season #1 offense, only scored 14 goals in the series, more than 1 goal less than their regular season average.

#6 No Brooks Orpik

Brooks Orpik played a whopping 4:55 of ice time in the series. After returning from an injury that caused him to miss Games 1-3, he returned in Game 4 to only be injured in the first period and miss the remainder of the series. Orpik is a natural leader, he may not have the fancy stats but he’s a pretty good shutdown guy and brings stability to the locker-room. Sometimes that voice is immensely large in a situation like that, but no Orpik meant no voice.

#7 Henrik Lundqvist

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Henrik Lundqvist STOLE this series from the Penguins. The guy was just lights out and in the final 3 games, his 1.00 GAA and .971 Save % showed it.

It’s been noted before that when a goaltender is zoned in like that, it tends to get into the opponents head. As if the frustration for the Penguins scorers wasn’t enough to handle already, now they had to figure out how to get through a steel reinforced brick wall.

So where do the Penguins go from here? Does a new GM come in and scrap everything or does he stick by the Penguins guns and try again? We’ll have to wait and find out I suppose, but it is now clear. It’s gonna be Cup or Bust for the Penguins from here on out.

A little birdie has also been singing that the only reason Dan Bylsma still has a job, is because the Pens are hoping Mike Babcock will be leaving the Red Wings after next season. Interesting times ahead for the Penguins.

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