Avalanche Fan’s Playoff Profile: Pittsburgh Penguins Exit


The next team has fallen in the NHL Playoffs and, surprisingly, it wasn’t the Ottawa Senators but the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins lost in overtime 2-1 to the New York Rangers and, thus, lost the series 4-1.

As a Colorado Avalanche fan, I was rooting for the Penguins. Pittsburgh center Sidney Crosby is good buddies with both Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon — they even train together in the off season. That’s kind of a tenuous connection, but the Penguins and Rangers are Eastern Conference, so it’s not like I watch them a lot.

Foreshadowing Penguins’ Elimination

In any case, the elimination was not too surprising. The Penguins came into the post-season struggling. They only won a single game in April, and that was against the Buffalo Sabres — come on.

Some of the games leading up to the playoffs were close. The game against the Ottawa Senators went to overtime, with the Senators taking the game 4-3. However, the Penguins lost by two and three goals against non-playoff teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Philadelphia Flyers. (Twice against the latter, actually, and that’s just shameful.)

Now, it’s true that Sid Crosby is the biggest name on the team. However, Evgeni Malking is a close second. He hasn’t scored a goal for the Penguins in seven weeks — literally. Malkin, the #2 scorer on the team, hadn’t scored in 15 games.  He didn’t even get a single point in the playoffs.

Pittsbugh’s Demise

The Pittsburgh Penguins never had the series in hand. While all the games were close, Pittsburgh was never able to unleash their firepower against the Rangers. New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist is that good. And the Penguins were not.

The one high-scoring game was the only game Pittsburgh took. In the second game of the series, the Penguins put the Rangers away in New York 4-3.  Crosby’s line was the biggest factor in this series as Sid the Kid scored two goals and longtime linemate Chris Kunitz earned another.

Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury sometimes takes the blame for poor Penguins’ performances. However, he was pretty solid in the Rangers series. He had a decent 2.13 goals against average with a .927 save percentage. He allowed more than two goals in only one game — the Penguins’ win, actually. In the elimination game, Fleury faced 36 shots, turning away 34.

The Captain Speaks

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I find it very interesting that on the Penguins website the only video available after the elimination is of captain Sid Crosby. I imagine head coach Mike Johnston spoke to the media, but at the time of writing, that interview is not available.

In any case, Crosby seems markedly relaxed. Last season, when the Penguins were eliminated in the second round by the selfsame Rangers, Crosby seemed edgy and defensive. This time around, he seems more philosophical. He talks about how close all the games were and how the Penguins were “just on the wrong side of the one-goal games.”

As if that didn’t sound familiar enough to me as an Avalanche fan, Crosby had a wise observation about all the injuries the team has suffered. By the end of the regular season, the Penguins were #5 in the NHL for man games lost with 338. (The Avalanche, of course, were second in the NHL with 486.) Crosby said of the injuries:

"“It’s tough. We’re missing some guys all year. To get into your rhythm… to get rhythm as far as team identity and the role of guys. We probably struggled with that a bit.”"

Crosby acknowledges he’s not using that as an excuse — same way the Avs didn’t want to use it as an excuse. However, it’s significant.

In any case, the Rangers are the second team in the NHL to advance to the second round, along with the Anaheim Ducks. I have in my bracket the Ducks and Montreal Canadiens battling for the Stanley Cup, but I considered the Rangers long and hard.

As for Sid Crosby… it’s that much sooner that he can get to training with Duchene and MacKinnon again.

Next: Ducks First to Advance

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