Lessons Learned by @highheelshockey - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

The Latest

Post Top Ad

Monday, May 6, 2013

Lessons Learned by @highheelshockey

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
The past few years, the playoffs have been less than kind to the Penguins. How can a team over flowing with top talent exit the playoffs so early year after year?

We hear it all of the time: "This team cannot win a Cup without Sidney Crosby" and other such claims. I don't buy that. Other teams are winning without Sidney Crosby. It isn't about the talent you have, it's about getting that right combination of players who in addition to the skills they bring to the table have the most important piece of the puzzle: hunger.

What we didn't see on Wednesday but have seen in the last two games is that the Islanders are hungry. And why wouldn't they be? The Isles haven't won a Stanley Cup in 30 years. They haven't even won their division since 1988. They also haven't made a playoffs appearance since 2007, when they were ousted in the first round by the Sabres in Game 5.

The Pens know how to win in the regular season, but in the playoffs it doesn't work. The system doesn't work. The plays get sloppy. The team collapses. How do you go from embarrassing teams with your prolific scoring to falling behind to a team that ultimately would have had little chance at entering the playoffs if it were not for divisional seeding?

In Game 1 it appeared by all accounts that the Pens had learned from their mistakes from the past few playoff runs. Defense was rock solid. They ignored the Islanders many attempts to draw penalties by picking at players over and over again. They were physical. They forechecked and kept going north, maintaining strong puck possession for three straight periods. Goaltending was spectacular.

It looked like this team was not only physically there, but more importantly, they were mentally in it.

So the lessons from the past demons were learned, right?

If you examine Game 2 and Game 3, it appears as though the Penguins haven't learned a thing from the series against Tampa or the Flyers. The Islanders have speed in their favor. They are a younger team. The Pens have extremely strong skaters though in Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Brandon Sutter...the list goes on. There was simply no excuse for them to stop skating and coast their way through the games, which is exactly what they did.

Defense gave up. Unfortunately, Marc-Andre Fleury will bear the brunt of criticism for allowing goals coming off of weird bounces, etc, but as I've stated on my other blog and on Twitter, Fleury is the last line of defense and if his team isn't going to protect him, those goals are going to happen. Fleury actually played a great game on Friday practically by himself. If it wasn't for Fleury, that game would have ended in a complete blowout. Count on that. He made 42 saves on Friday and 36 on Sunday.

42. Say that again. 42.

The Isles are desperate to win. The way the divisions will be split up next year, it could possibly be a very long time before they make another playoff appearance. Do not underestimate a team in their position. It takes more than skill to win. It takes will. It takes desire. It takes passion.

The Pens have to want it more and play smart. Wednesday was one of the most smartly played games I have witnessed in a long time from the Pens. They were disciplined and unshakable. They were everything they needed to be to go deep into these playoffs.

To win this series they need to learn their lessons:

  1. Do not retaliate to goony antics, causing you to take stupid penalties.
  2. Skate. Skate. Skate.
  3. Stop retreating far behind the blueline and cover Fleury or Vokoun. Protect them with your life.
  4. Get the lines straight. Yes, James Neal is out, but Jarome Iginla and Malkin have no chemistry. Fix the lines.
  5. Get the power play straightened out. Again.
  6. Stick to the basics. Fancy hockey doesn't guarantee wins as much as  it has been guaranteeing give-aways.

And most importantly: Act like you want to win and know that you can lose. The Game 1 win may have seemed as though it came easy, but it takes 16 wins to win a Cup.

Whether or not the Pens deserved to win today is debatable. There was no excuse for the game going to overtime. They gained the lead, the defense perked up, and then promptly crashed and burned. They were lucky Sunday. Luck can't have anything to do with it tomorrow.

Get it together or it'll be another early year for golf.

Let's Go Pens.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad