JOHNSTON LOOKS BACK ON SEASON
Penguins winger David Perron, who struggled mightily the last couple months of the season, revealed today he played with a rib injury in the playoffs that he suffered against Buffalo in the regular season finale.
Perron, Malkin and others dealt with minor injuries in the series but head coach Mike Johnston doesn’t feel injuries to anyone in his lineup (dressed) were significant enough that held the Penguins back.
“Not really, not significant,” Johnston said. “Everybody is playing with little things. There was nothing significant in that you could say ‘well we didn’t do this because this player was injured’, [so] no.”
Johnston spoke today of the Penguins rolling on all cylinders up until Christmas and feels the turning point in the season was March 14th when Sidney Crosby didn’t play vs the Bruins and the Penguins would later lose Evgeni Malkin to injury, followed by Patric Hornqvist getting injured the following day against Detroit.
“I take a look at the season and up until Christmas I thought things were rolling on all cylinders,” Johnston said. “We were scoring, our goals against were down. Our special teams were good. Real turning point for season was March 14th [game vs Boston].”
“I was looking at [standings] first place and we were three points away from first place on March 14th. Really when you look at it, March 14th till the end of the season, seemed like we just fell off a cliff at times with our play, with our injuries, and I didn’t like the finish to our season,” Johnston said.
What Johnston did admit is that despite the injuries, the Penguins should have found a way to “scratch and claw” for three to four wins and get a higher seed.
“In the end probably when I look back, we needed three more wins, or four more wins,” Johnston said. “I don’t care who we had in the lineup, or what our injury situation was, we should be able to scratch and claw for three more wins, and that would have put us in second place.”
When it comes to the standings, Johnston is correct that March 14th was a turning point in the season in a bad way but one prominent Penguin spoke in reality today in that the Penguins play really started to slip all the way back to November and there were warning signs well in advance.
“Looking back from November and December on, we’ve kind of been a struggling team to get things rolling,” Chris Kunitz said. I don’t know why. I think if we’d figured that out we’d probably still be playing right now.”