That Matt Murray guy wasn’t so bad after all was he?
Tristan Jarry proved in Game 6 he was cooked mentally before the puck even dropped. That was the worst fear coming into Wednesday night and it played out. Jarry put it all on tape of a how a goaltender loses you a series.
This could shape his career, that’s how damaging his performance was the last two games of the series. He just couldn’t handle the pressure.
And here the Penguins now sit with three straight first round playoff exits.
“You win games as a group. You games as a team, you lose games as a team,” Mike Sullivan said in not pinpointing the series on Jarry.
There’s no denying this year was different than the past two postseasons in how the Penguins transformed over the final couple months of the season into the team that legitimately could have made a run.
“We did a lot of good things this year,” said Sidney Crosby. “You can look every year and analyze it differently, but I think this year we had a good group and did a lot of good things. We easily could have made a run. I feel really confident about this group with the way we were trending and the way we finished out [regular season].”
But they didn’t and 2017 was so long ago.
I already hear arguments being made for the new regime to just sit back and decide a month from now to ‘let’s run it back one more year’ with most of the club intact, aside from adding a goaltender to supplant or compete with Tristan Jarry.
Okay, but if you claim the primary goal is try to maximize Sidney Crosby’s final good to great years, that’s quite the gamble.
The older core in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Letang will all be another year older. Malkin and Letang will each be 35 years old when next season ends. Jeff Carter ended up being a significant trade deadline addition who you absolutely hope comes back for one more season. Pittsburgh saw the Jeff Carter of 6-7 years ago and was a great fit in the room.
But here’s the caveat:
Carter will be 37 years old next season and a grueling 82 game schedule is a lot of different at his age than coming in rejuvenated for a short-season playoff run from a rebuilding team. There’s just no way the Penguins will get production like they got from Carter this season again.
At the end of the day, the Penguins just can’t act like being 3-11 in their last 14 playoff games has just been bad puck luck. This is a group that now expects to lose in big games.
Something has to give.
Immediate Burning Questions for the Penguins Off-Season
1. New Regime Will & Must take a hard look at Mike Sullivan
Mike Sullivan did an amazing coaching job in the regular season. His best coaching season since the spring of 2016. That’s how much he was able to get a buy-in of the Penguins to remerge into a systematic fast paced style hockey club. But, has Mike Sullivan’s system/ways reached an expiration date?
Sullivan has put it all on the table that he’s doubling down on how he believes the Penguins should play and how he’s going to coach. The arrogance that our best is better than your best has backfired now.
Game 6 was another classic example where Mike Sullivan’s system lives and dies with pinching defenseman and it’s crushed the Penguins in multiple postseasons. Sullivan’s system continues to just put way too much pressure on the forwards to defend in transition. Where you team doesn’t score enough dirty goals and shoot wide as much as any team in the NHL, you have to pick your spots when to be aggressive and when not to be.
And the million dollar question this offseason was always going to be how Sullivan adapts and feels about the obvious in how the new regime wants to remain a fast/skilled team but evolve slightly into a heavier team.
“We didn’t lose this series because we weren’t big enough,” said Sullivan
2. Rule Out Extensions for Malkin & Letang
The new regime if they haven’t already needs to rule out extending Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin this summer. There’s just no reason to go down that road this summer. Neither player wants to go anywhere and in Malkin’s case, he has full power in being able to block any trade. Push it down the road to next summer (2022). It’s not the worst thing to make things a little uncomfortable.
3. Decide to Go Big Game Fishing
Sidney Crosby remains one of the best 200 ft players in the game as he ages. The Penguins still have years left to be competitive with Sidney Crosby at the helm if you can build a responsible two-way type of team around him, but here’s the reality for the Penguins:
Crosby’s days as an top 5 offensive game changer are over and that has become more of a fact the last couple postseasons. As one NHL evaluator tells me, Crosby needs help moving forward in the sense of the Penguins desperately needing to add a game breaker to the lineup. Someone that could carry his own line, a dynamic 1 Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"