It’s been several days since Boston swept our beloved Penguins from Stanley Cup competition. In my mind, here are seven factors that led to the defeat:
1. Sid’s Jaw—The fractured jaw Sidney Crosby sustained with a month to go in the regular season may have contributed more than any other factor to the Penguins’ undoing. The combination of the grueling playoff grind and a liquid diet—not to mention the Bruins’ rugged checking—left him looking gaunt and exhausted in the Conference Finals.
2. Easy Does It—Although the Islanders gave the Penguins some difficulty in the opening round, the black and gold had too easy a time with Ottawa. In particular, the goal-fests in Games 4 and 5 of the Conference Semifinals may have filled the Pens with a false sense of security and left them vulnerable to a tough team like Boston.
In stark contrast, the Bruins rallied from the brink of elimination in their first-round matchup with Toronto. Having stared adversity squarely in the eye and conquered it, they were the more confident, assured team.
3. The Trades—When GM Ray Shero acquired Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen, Brenden Morrow, and Douglas Murray prior to the trade deadline, I was ecstatic. While it’s true the newcomers added a huge helping of skill, grit, and veteran leadership, the team lost a step (or two) in the process. Indeed, a lack of foot speed is part of the reason the Pens struggled to mount a sustained attack.
The trades may also have provided coach Dan Bylsma and his staff with too many options. Bylsma seemed especially at a loss on how to use Iginla, who saw precious little ice time beside Crosby.
4. Coaching—On a whole, I thought Bylsma did a better job of adjusting than at any time since his arrival in ‘09. His decision to start veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun in Game 5 of the Islanders series literally saved the Pens from another humiliating opening-round loss.
On the down side, the defensive adjustments he made in Games 3 and 4 of the Conference Finals to hold the Bruins in check served to dull the Penguins’ attack. Bylsma also failed to come up with any tactical solutions for Boston’s 1-2-2. With the lone exception of Evgeni Malkin—who frequently employed the center drive—the Bruins denied the Penguins access to the prime scoring areas and forced them to play a perimeter game.
5. Bad Karma—I was thrilled when Shero pirated Iginla away from Boston in March. But in hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t such a good move. Had Boston gotten “Iggy,” rumor had it they planned to trade power forward Milan Lucic for defensive help.
Instead, the Bruins kept their core intact, acquired Jaromir Jagr, and swept the Pens in four straight games.
6. The Jagr Factor—When I learned Boston had acquired Jagr at the trade deadline, I thought “uh oh.” In my worst nightmares I envisioned the ex-Pens great scoring the series-winning goal against us in Game 7.
To my great relief, my foreboding didn’t come true. Instead, all No. 68 did was force the turnover that led to the Bruins’ backbreaking overtime winner in Game 3.
7. Providence—A friend suggested that in the wake of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, the “Hub City” surely could use a lift. It may appear far-fetched that the Almighty would care about who wins the Stanley Cup. But it sure seemed as if the Bruins enjoyed some divine intervention—especially when the Pens hammered all those shots off the pipes.