The dust is still settling after the Penguins lost to the 24th seeded Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was an embarrassing defeat, but was it a fluke?
“I don’t think you can associate what just happened (in the postseason) to the regular season," said Kris Letang, "The break that we just witnessed was longer than an offseason. I thought guys prepared themselves well, but when the puck dropped, I think we faced a well-balanced team with a great goaltender that played better than us. You have to evaluate the season and the playoffs (as) two different things.”
Do you? I'm not so sure.
What's the Penguins' captain think? Sidney Crosby weighed in, “I would have loved a better outcome. It’s hard to tie it all in. It’s basically like starting fresh. It’s hard to draw on the season as a whole when there’s a four-month break. This is a whole separate thing.”
Yikes. I sure hope Jim Rutherford doesn't feel that way. This wasn't a pandemic issue. This wasn't a layoff issue. This IS a Penguins issue.
Earlier in the season, the Penguins won a whole bunch of games with guys like Sam Lafferty, Andrew Agozzino, Joseph Blandisi, Adam Johnson, Anthony Angello, Thomas Di Pauli, Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel, and Zach Trotman.
That gave me hope. "Well, if the Penguins can win with THOSE guys, imagine what they'll do when Crosby and co. come back!"
Of course the Sam Lafferty's of the world did what they were told and played the “right way.” That's what players with marginal talent do. They want to stick in the league.
The Penguins went from worst to first in allowing odd-man rushes. This was largely without their full compliment of players.
When the Penguins got healthy, they were 3-8 in their last 11 games before the pause. They were swept by the three worst teams in the Western Conference.
The team that the Penguins put on the ice for the Montreal Canadiens series wasn't the team that accumulated the 7th most points during the regular season. It was more the team that was 3-8 in its last 11 games.
With all due respect to Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang, this wasn't a "pandemic" or "pause" issue.
They've won just one playoff game in two years. They've scored just 28 goals in their last 14 playoff contests. Evgeni Malkin has one even-strength goal in his last three playoff series.
To use a pandemic phrase, this is the "new normal." This wasn't an aberration. This wasn't because of the pause. There's something wrong with this team. Let's hope Jim Rutherford doesn't buy into this being a one-off. It wasn't.
This was the team we saw at the end of the regular season. This was the team that we've seen far too often in the playoffs the last few years.
I hope the general manager sees it that way, because he's the man who needs to fix it.