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Insider Only Morning After: On how Rangers tilted the series and never gave it back; Look into Crosby coming up small “again” and why he needs help

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MORNING AFTER

Pittsburgh’s 5-1 loss in Game 5 is what tilted the series, players, coaches admit it, but why weren’t the Penguins able to grab control of the series again? That’s what is most alarming when you breakdown this Penguins team.
“Game 5 {was} a really big missed opportunity,” defenseman Matt Niskanen who struggled defensively in the series said after last night’s loss. It wasn’t that the Penguins lost Game 5 that titled the series, it was how they lost, similar to Game 5 in the 2011 playoffs against Tampa Bay when they blew a 3-1 series lead.
Pittsburgh was outscored 10-3 in the final three games of the series to the Rangers and never held the lead once over the last three games.
“Not being able to come up with a knockout punch there in Game 5, you look at that as probably the biggest turning point in the series,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
Something about this team they seem to always have a type of loss that they had in Game 5 that they never recover from, leading to the opposition taking control of the series and never giving it back.
It’s why there needs to be change.
Game 7 was a typical Penguins game when it comes to their structure and style of play. They controlled the play for long stretches, settled for low percentage shots, saw their defensemen get caught pinching way too much with no forward help leading to several odd-man rushes for the Rangers.
In Games 5-7, New York was excellent at protecting the net and boxing out in front, a huge contrast from how the Penguins defenders play who struggle to clear out juicy rebounds from Marc Andre Fleury.
In the last three games of the series, New York made key adjustments in protecting their blueline and making the Penguins a perimeter team, an issue the Penguins had last year in the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston.
“They protected the net, boxed out well,” Sidney Crosby said of the Rangers. “They had guys sit back, really protected their blue line….. That’s the playoffs”
You can’t say the Penguins quit on their coaching staff. The team played with a lot of intensity in Game 7 but at the end of the day this team just doesn’t have that “it” factor and they haven’t for a while.
The Chicago Blackhawks have looked vulnerable this post-season but compared to the Penguins, they have a very good goaltender and most importantly they have that “it” factor about them. They are mentally strong unlike the Penguins.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for seven goals in the playoffs. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have combined for seven game winning goals.
The Penguins are a flawed team but at the end of the day the Penguins stars have to look into the mirror. They have post-season after post-season come up small and that trend continued this year. James Neal hasn’t scored in 31 of 37 playoff games, Marc Andre Fleury and Kris Letang are too inconsistent. Evgeni Malkin was about the only core player who showed up this post-season.
Sidney Crosby scored just once in playoffs and finished the season (regular season/playoffs) with 10 goals in his last 42 games.
One thing about Crosby is that while he’s the best player in the league and might go down as one of the top-10 players of all-time when his career is over, there’s no question he has never regained the level he was at during the 2010-2011 season, prior to his first concussion. That Crosby was on another level especially from a goal scoring and game changing standpoint. Some believe he doesn’t go to the net as hard as before.
“Obviously I would like to score more and contribute more, but it wasn’t a lack of effort or competing or anything like that,” Crosby said after Game 7. “I’d love to tear it up every series, but it’s not always the case.”
Crosby’s 5 even strength points in 13 playoff games ranks 37th in the NHL playoffs.
In nine NHL seasons, Crosby right now is the Peyton Manning of the NHL. A great regular season player, could potentially become one of the all-time greats at the forward position when his career is over, but is plagued by coming up small in big time situations in the playoffs.
In the Penguins past four elimination games, Crosby has 0 points.
2010 vs Montreal Game 7: 0 Points, -2, 5 SOG
2012 vs Philadelphia Game 6: 0 Points, -3, 3 SOG
2013 vs Boston Game 4: 0 Points, even, 4 SOG
2014 vs New York Game 7: 0 Points, even, 2 SOG
The good thing is that Crosby has a lot of hockey left in him to change this narrative. Maybe at somepoint Crosby needs more help. It’s a good time for management to quit being so infatuated with the three center model (that worked when Crosby, Malkin were on entry level deals) and actually go out and get Crosby a premier power forward who won’t let Crosby get pushed around.
Going all in for Evander Kane would be a start.

Mario has to see what most see. Having a Kevin Stevens type guy on his line made a world of difference for him. It’s obvious that Crosby needs that player. Not a lot available but that needs to be the priority over a Ryan Kesler and going back to the three center model.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at wdepaoli@insidepittsburghsports.com

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