Starkey: Penguins' arrogance astounding
TribLIVE Sports Videos
They never learn.
Every time the Penguins start to feel good about themselves, it seems they want to feel better. Good isn't good enough. They are hockey's great narcissists — hopelessly addicted to their own wondrous skill.
Their 4-3 double-overtime loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday provided yet another stirring example, in addition to costing the Penguins home-ice advantage in this first-round series.
The Penguins dominated the first period and led 3-1 going to the intermission. That kind of lead should be good enough this time of year, or as defenseman Matt Niskanen put it, “There's no reason to give up scoring chances — unnecessary ones — when you have a two-goal lead in the playoffs.”
The idea has to be to nurture the lead. To make it last. Defense should be the overriding mindset.
Only it wasn't.
That became clear when coach Dan Bylsma threw four forwards over the boards, including Evgeni Malkin at the point, for a power play six minutes into the period. The move shrieked offense. The situation called for a more conservative mindset — and it's not like the Penguins lack power play-capable defensemen.
The Blue Jackets had no business getting back in this game. Bylsma left the screen door open. Columbus had been dangerous on the penalty kill all season and had scored a short-handed goal in Game 1. There was no reason to take a chance.
Sure enough, Malkin fumbled a puck at the right point. He escaped unscathed. He then was victimized at the left point, which led to a 2-on-1 and Matt Calvert's short-handed goal.
This was sheer Penguins arrogance — and it changed the game for good. They never recaptured control. After outshooting the Blue Jackets, 15-4, in the first period, they were outshot 41-27 the rest of the way.
Afterward, Bylsma explained that he went with four forwards because it worked so well during the regular season. That is true. The Penguins had the league's top-ranked power play. But the playoffs are a different animal. Coaching staffs have way more time to break down opponent's special teams. They look for weaknesses.
Malkin on the point is a weakness.
I asked Calvert if Columbus went into the series looking to exploit the Penguins' four-forward power play.
“I think so,” he said. “I think as a team we do get a ton of chances short-handed no matter who we play. It's something we try to kill power plays with.”
Bylsma opined that defense on the power play hadn't been issue “until these last two games,” but it sure looked like the Penguins had been living on the edge for weeks now. And he'd already gone to the two-defensemen look after the Columbus shortie in Game 1.
It wasn't just the coach who fed the goal monster. The captain did, too. Sidney Crosby threw more interceptions than Neil O'Donnell in a Super Bowl. He was “credited” with a game-high four giveaways, more than the entire Columbus team, as he repeatedly attempted high-risk, cross-ice passes.
The disease spread. Malkin, on an early power play, tried a dangerous blind pass between his skates (it worked, which probably only fed the monster). Even goalie Marc-Andre Fleury — the only reason the Penguins had a chance — got caught up in the act when he head-faked a Columbus forechecker before making a pass.
After the power play gone wrong, the Penguins were so infected that the two-defensemen power play gave up a golden chance.
We haven't even mentioned the offensive-zone penalties or the defensive breakdowns. Kris Letang again generated some beautiful Columbus scoring chances. He's been the Blue Jackets' MVP through two games.
The Penguins are actually lucky to be tied 1-1 in the series.
Will that be enough to humble them?
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Rossi: Steelers rising fast in mediocre AFC
- Heyward, swarming defense get best of Chiefs in Steelers’ win
- Steelers offense learning to slam door
- Steelers clinch trip to postseason with big victory over Chiefs
- Steelers-Bengals game to start at 8:30 p.m.
- Missed chances haunt Chiefs against Steelers
- SWAT teams surround Lincoln-Lemington home after shooting
- Old-school booksellers learn to survive, thrive in digital age
- Pittsburgh mayor Peduto goes ‘Undercover’ for CBS reality show
- Downie, Farnham bringing a much-needed edge to the Penguins
- LaBar: Reigns could be WWE’s next big gamble