Penguins Season Ends as the Sum of All Fears Becomes Reality.

Penguins Season Ends as the Sum of All Fears Becomes Reality.

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ once promising season has ended in utter disappointment. After going 51-25-6 in the regular season and challenging the New York Rangers for the 1st spot in the Eastern Conference they have now been prematurely bounced from Stanley Cup Playoff dance. After blowing a 3 goal lead in Game 1 things only went downhill. Game 2 started strong with Crosby burring a goal only 15 seconds into the game. But it was back and forth and they could not control the play and the game ended in an 8-5 loss with two Flyers recording Hat Tricks. After Game 2 Kris Letang went on to say, “A lot of media questioned our team, how fragile it was, and we always respond well, we have a lot of character. I think we have a lot of leaders in that dressing room that will show us the way.” By saying this he said the leaders would show the Penguins the way, take control, keep composure, and make the series 2-1. Game 3 was the usual playoff hockey game, hard hitting, intense, every goal a crucial one. Then things got ugly. Letang went and took a foolish cross checking penalty, then five minutes later completely lost his composure and got into a fight with Kimmo Timonen. Letang won the fight, and even game the crowd at Wells Fargo Center the Max Talbot “Shhhh” on the way to the dressing room after he and Timonen were tossed from the game. So the player who talked about leadership and character only a day before, lost his composure and was thrown out of no doubt a must win game after only playing 6:22, leaving the already fragile defensive core a man short for the remainder of the game. Things only got worse. Later in the period Arron Asham received a match penalty and was thrown out of the game for cross checking Brayden Schenn in the throat and then punching him in the back of the head while he lay on the ice after he threw a big, yet totally clean check on Paul Martin. Asham was suspended 4 games for his actions. Then in the 3rd period James Neal left his feet to deliver a blow to the head of the Flyers Sean Couturier who didn’t even have control of the puck, but Neal wasn’t done, on the same shift he went and hit Flyers superstar Claude Giroux in the head. Neal was suspended 1 game for his actions. Needless to say many fights occurred and the game ended in an 8-4 Penguins loss. There is no place in the game for when the Pittsburgh Penguins did in this game. I am a diehard Pens fan, anyone who knows me knows that is the truth. But the dirty hits, head hunting, and total loss of composure of the entire team is just unacceptable. And as a penguins fan I cannot support that kind of play. And to anyone who disagrees, how did you feel when last season the New York Islanders took 2 games and turned them into free-for-all fights with countless dirty hits and cheap shots against our stars. Former Penguins star turned owner Mario Lemieux had this to say after the 2 Islanders games, “Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty. It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that. The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed. We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action. If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it”. Sunday afternoon the Pittsburgh Penguins played exactly like those New York Islanders did, and it was a disgrace.

Everything we know about the Penguins seems to have changed in a matter of days. They were supposed to be the favorite to win the Cup, they are the clean team, they keep their composure, and the Flyers play dirty. But in reality they are down 3-0 in the series, they are playing dirty and have literally no composure, and the Flyers are the ones playing clean. It’s a lot to take in. This can only be described as a total meltdown and no one really knows why, but it could be any number of things.

Their defense has totally crumbled as of late. After the return of Captain Sidney Crosby it seems like the team has been going all in on offense, trying to blow teams out without focusing on defense. Defenseman Brooks Orpik predicted this in March,” We’re giving up a lot of good, good chances and putting too much pressure on our goalies. We’re trying to outscore teams rather than out-defend. Some nights you get away with it, some nights you don’t, but definitely going into the playoffs you won’t.” Another possible problem is the lack of leadership there seems to be. The leaders of the defense are Orpik, who has done very well but goes for a lot of big hits which leave him out of position, and Letang, who has shown time and time again that he loses his cool. When they won the Stanley Cup in 2009 they defensive veterans like Sergei Gonchar, Rob Scuderi, and Philippe Boucher who led the team, and at times even went out of position to keep Kris Letang in check.

The leaders of the offense are Evgeni Malkin, who had been virtually invisible after a stellar regular season, Sidney Crosby, who has been picking fights and putting himself in danger of another concussion, and Jordan Staal, who has been one of the most consistent players both offensively and defensively in the playoffs. When they won the Stanley Cup in 2009 they had Bill Guerin who was a great leader and one of the cornerstones of the team. The goaltending is also to blame for this monumental collapse. Marc-Andre Fleury has been hung out to dry by the defense but you should not lose a playoff game in which you score 4 or 5 goals. He has given up juicy rebounds and had let in soft goals left and right. In fact Fleury is putting up some of the worst stats for any goalie in the playoffs in years.

Another possible cause of the current situation is the fact that this team is extremely arrogant. They expect to win with their raw talent alone, and when they don’t, they skate around like petulant children, picking fights, throwing dirty hits, and complaining about everything. They completely disregard their defensive responsibilities because, hey they have Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Neal, Kunitz, Letang, they will just score so many goals the other teams won’t be able to keep up. It’s true that the Penguins have more raw talent than most teams but the way they have played of late is arrogant and will not lead in wins. The Penguins seem like they expect the Stanley Cup to be handed to them, and every team in their way will fold under the awesome power and talent of this team. The Flyers came out and took it to us, and deserve to win this series because the Cup is earned, not handed out.
The arrogance has even spread to the Penguins’ management. Many people fail to remember that only a few years ago our beloved Pens were the bottom feeders of the NHL. Night after night they were beaten up by virtually every team they faced. And then in 2007, after stockpiling young talent, they were back in the playoffs, and it was a BIG deal. The team started having whiteouts and they gave out rally towels and whiteout shirts at each and every home game, I personally have more shirts and towels than I could ever count or need. But for the second season in a row the Penguins have stopped giving out the whiteout shirts and you must go out and buy one for $15. This just shows to me that the Penguins management expects to make the playoffs, and though this is the goal of every NHL team, they are so arrogant that they won’t even give out shirts to its fans who have stuck with the team all season, through all the ups and downs that came with it. This has almost let the whiteout fall into extinction. I was at Game 2 on Friday April 13th and there whiteout was basically nonexistent. And if you saw Game 3 in Philadelphia, you saw a sea of orange, united as one, with shirts that bares the saying, “WATCHA GONNA DO?” This is a direct shot at the Penguins fan base and super-fan Cy Clark. Cy is the guy who dresses up like Hulk Hogan at every game, is responsible for the birth of “Malkamania”, and has been battling cancer for the past year. The Flyers give out shirts mocking this man who dedicated a large part of his life to our hometown hockey team and has done so thought out his bout with cancer, and the Penguins sell you playoff shirts for $15 at Dicks. It’s just disheartening to see this happen.

The team will pull through, and move forward after this embarrassing display. The offseason will come, new players will join the team and old players will go. Some players that are likely to be let go are forwards Steve Sullivan, Arron Asham, Steve MacIntyre, and Richard Park. Backup goalie Brent Johnson is also unlikely to be re-signed so they will have to pick up another backup for Fleury. They will most likely keep the defense how it is but there are rumors of wanting to move Paul Martin because of his salary his of 5 M a year and is extremely poor play as of late. The only problem is that he has 3 more years on that contract which also has a limited move clause which keeps the team from trading him to a bad team that he doesn’t want to play for. So they might choose to buy him out which is when you basically fire him. He is free to sign with another team but you still have to pay him his 15 M he would have received over his next 3 years. That money would be paid over 6 years at 2.5 M per year. Also Jordan Staal could be on the move this summer. Respected reporter Alan Robinson Tweeted, “Have heard from multiple people Staal not content to remain in current role much longer. He could be No. 1 center in a lot of cities.” This is a very true statement and it was only a matter of time until this kind of thing happened. They might be able to trade Staal and Martin together to get a quality player, a few good draft picks, or a mixture of both. It would be sad to see Staal go but it might be what the team needs to keep what happened this season from happening again. Also I believe the penguins will go out and sign Bill Guerin type veterans on both offense and defense. Possible veteran leaders they could sign are Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Ray Whitney, Ryan Smyth, Marco Sturm, Brian Rolston, Jamie Langenbrunner, Mikael Samuelsson, Milan Hejduk, or Mike Knuble.

No one can predict what will happen from here. But one thing is for sure, some things must be fixed because important years of what could be a possible dynasty are being wasted.