Kovacevic: For Penguins, a stubborn failure
TribLIVE Sports Videos
BOSTON — Well, at least the Penguins did it their way.
Give 'em that much.
At least they showed the hockey world that their way was right. That all those changes and adjustments, all those strategic shifts and personnel switches, all that stuff was for losers.
Not for the mighty Penguins.
Not for the franchise that's now — say it with me — the NHL's four-time defending paper champion after getting swept out of the Eastern Conference final by slinking away silently to the Bruins, 1-0, Friday night at TD Garden.
Silently and stubbornly and stupidly, right to the end.
“It stinks that we're out,” as Jarome Iginla succinctly summarized it. “It definitely stinks.”
Let's not stop there: This was the worst playoff series in franchise history.
The most embarrassing.
The most ridiculous.
The most inexplicable.
Hey, we can revisit all the numbers, the two total goals — two! — on 139 shots over 253 minutes and 14 periods, plus the 55 missed shots, the 0-for-15 power play ... all that was disastrous enough.
But citing simple stats, even this grotesque, is letting this group off easy.
It doesn't sufficiently encompass all the talent wasted, all the investment from the money to the draft picks and prospects sent out, all the passion of hockey's most passionate American fan base.
And it doesn't do justice to the bullheadedness demonstrated by pretty much all concerned all through the series.
No, Game 4 did that just fine all by itself.
It started beforehand, when Dan Bylsma's do-or-die lineup move was to insert Tyler Kennedy in favor of Joe Vitale and … um, that was it. Presumably because the tide would be turned by a fourth-line shakeup.
His strategic response was even less ambitious, little more than the standard get-to-our-game fare. Sure, the Penguins tightened up and faceoffs improved over the final two games, but there were no surprises, no unusual formations on offense, defense or the breakout, nothing to cause Claude Julien to so much as break a sweat.
Nothing there, either, not so much as a single X to their O.
Ensuring that forwards go hard to the net?
What, and cause Tuukka Rask to spill his tequila?
To say it again: Bylsma's got questions to answer from Ray Shero, and the answers had better be good. For that matter, Shero's questions had better come without any preconceived notion of status quo.
But the coach isn't alone, and as much as he'll make a tidy target, don't pretend there wasn't more to it.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the consensus two best players in the world, combined for zero points in a full playoff series.
I can't believe I just typed that.
Stubbornly, those two tried again and again to stickhandle through a stout Boston defense designed to stop exactly that. And even the few times they pulled it off, none of Crosby's 13 shots or Malkin's 21 paid off.
“If you look back, the chances were there,” the captain said. “You try to fight, try to get rebounds. … We scored two goals all series, and I didn't score any points. It doesn't sit very well.”
“It's tough. I don't have confidence,” Malkin said. “You know, zero goals.”
James Neal knows, too. Only his zero point total was accompanied by an absurd 10 missed shots in the final two games, including five more glass-bangers in Game 4. No less stubborn than the rest, he wasn't content to force Rask to make actual saves. He had to pick at corners.
Small wonder he was testy afterward when someone asked what the Penguins should have done differently: “Yeah, obviously, we have to put it in the back of the net.”
Kris Letang, owner of 16 points through two rounds, disintegrated into a minus waiting to happen. Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Jarome Iginla … you can pretty much roll right through the roster … almost all vanished.
The Penguins' best skater at any position in this series was Paul Martin. Their best forwards were Craig Adams, Matt Cooke and Brenden Morrow. And their best overall player, beyond debate, was Tomas Vokoun, who deserved so much better after earning the chance of a lifetime and being one of the few to make the most of it.
But with all due respect to those gentlemen, a whole lot went terribly awry for those to be their team's best in the series leading into the Stanley Cup final. Shero's got one murderous summer ahead of him to try to figure it out and react accordingly.
For now …
“When you don't reach your main goal, it's always a failure,” Letang said. “We had the opportunity. We had the group to do it.”
And that's sad.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bryant suspension opens doors for other Steelers’ receivers
- Two wild-card format hurting Pirates in short term
- Less sleep increases your chance of catching a cold, researchers say
- Steelers trade 6th-round pick for Jaguars kicker Scobee
- Starkey: The kick returner and the grizzly bear
- Pitt defense is entering new season with something to prove
- Risks don’t get any better as online dating prospers
- Steelers WR Bryant’s suspension upheld
- Steelers notebook: LB Harrison believes Goodell will prevail in Brady ruling
- Some White Oak students arrive home an hour late
- Advanced hunter education has trouble staying course