2017-18: The Season That Was and What May be to Come by@MedinaMarie_PI - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

2017-18: The Season That Was and What May be to Come by@MedinaMarie_PI

It took overtime to decide the series, but with a 2-1 loss, the Pittsburgh Penguins quest for a third straight Stanley Cup came to an end. 

As we gather our thoughts and feelings as the Penguins clear out their lockers, let's take a look back at the season that was, as well as take a glimpse forward as to what could come for Pittsburgh. 

The 2017-18 season was wrought with emotion, a bit of concern and even some uncertainty. After winning back-to-back championships, many wondered how the Penguins would fare after playing so many games in a short timespan with little down time between seasons. 

Concern grew even more with the departure of key character and veteran players such as Marc Andre Fleury, Chris Kunitz, Nick Bonino, and Ron Hainsey. As much as other outlets don't want to admit it, the offseason departures dealt a blow to the team. While they did their best to fill the open slots with the likes of Riley Sheahan, Matt Hunwick and Annti Niemi (oh laaaawwd!), as well as call ups from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins stumbled out of the gate going 13-13 in the first two months of the season. 

Team, as well as line chemistry, as well as fatigue from playing 214 games within a two year span, weighed on the Pens who struggled to really find their game as 2018 broke. 

Most fans and media will express that the chemistry isn't a factor in winning and that the first two months of a season don't really matter. I beg to differ. You have to trust who you are on the ice with. You have to know what their tendencies are, how to react, and where to be on the ice. Too many line shuffles in a small span of time can hinder any kind of progress that could develop. In a stacked division, and facing 19 sets of back-to-back games, getting all the wins you can get early in case of a down turn could mean the difference between making the postseason or not. It almost did. 

As the season wore on, it became clear just how tight of a race the Metro Division was becoming. The race was so tight, and wins so desperately needed, it took the Penguins up until the last week of the regular season to nail down their slot. Down the stretch, the top three teams in the division changed daily until the playoff field was set. By then, the Penguins had parted ways with warrior defenseman, Ian Cole, and added new faces Derick Brassard and Jaime Oleksiak hoping to solidify the defensive struggles and add a high profile center to the third line to increase scoring chances. 

The Penguins would finish the season with a record of 47-29-6, good enough for fourth in the Eastern Conference and second in the division.

As the playoffs began, it became obvious that all was not well. Depth scoring all but vanished after Game 1 of the first round verses the Philadelphia Flyers and injuries began to take their toll. After defeating the Flyers in six games, an all too familiar foe awaited.

The rest, as they say, is history.

After failing to make the needed adjustments, the continuation of mistakes game after game, and just being out of gas overall, it was once again, an odd-man break that bit the Penguins to end their season and their quest for a third straight title.

They say more can be learned out of a loss than through winning, so what can the Penguins learn from the Washington series? 

A few aspects I am sure that will be addressed can (and should) include attention to detail, playing the right way, and knowing where you should and should not be on the ice. One of the main components to the Penguins breakdown throughout the six games played was giving up odd-man rushes, mainly due to errant, blind passing attempts through the neutral zone, being out of position or not tracking back up ice to defend after a turnover. Those on-ice issues and more are sure to be addressed once camp opens later in the summer.

While the finger pointing and, "trade everyone" cries wail thunderously through social media, I will speak plain: At this point, the Penguins needed an actual offseason more than they needed another championship. While making history with a third straight Stanley Cup would have been incredible, you have to take into account the lasting and lingering effects three prolonged seasons would have later on. We have seen what two long seasons can do to a team, their health, and their stamina. Imagine a full three years. The entire team, coaches included, need the extended time off, and out of the spotlight, to rest, recoup and clear their heads.

The 2017-18 season that had more personalities than Cybil Shepard. Up and down, hot and cold, movements of triumphant joy as well as time of bleak depression. Moving forward questions regarding the team will need addressed. Is Brassard a good fit in Pittsburgh based on the small sample size or has the Pens playing style been too much to transition to? What does the offseason hold? Could this be Letang's final season in a Penguin's sweater as many media outlets have suggested? Who do the Pens lock up and who could be dealt or walk away once the market opens up? What does the future hold for the youngsters, specifically Daniel Sprong, Zach Aston-Reese, and Dominik Simon?

All of that can and will be addressed when the time comes. While everyone and their mother continues their, "what should they do now" scenarios, I chose not to speculate and allow some time for the wounds of battle to heal before taking a dip into the, "Here is What I Think the Penguins Need to do Moving Forward" pool.

In closing, I leave you with the sentiments I posted on my Twitter feed after the final whistle:
I know losing to the Washington Capitals sucks, but, it could have been a lot worse (they could have lost to Philadelphia). Good luck to the remaining teams. And fans, don't be little jagoffs. Let the Caps fan base revel in their victory. They may not have another chance once Tampa gets a hold of them.

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