Penguins Give Their All – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

Penguins Give Their All

Determined to even their series with the nettlesome New York Rangers, the Penguins played 60 minutes of passionate, playoff-style hockey last night at the CONSOL Energy Center. Actually, 63:14 to be exact.


Unfortunately, their best wasn’t good enough. Three-plus minutes into overtime Rangers rookie Kevin Hayes poked a loose puck past Marc-Andre Fleury from a goal-mouth scramble to hand New York a 2-1 victory in Game 4 and a 3-1 stranglehold on the first-round matchup.

The Pens deserved better. After struggling mightily for the past month, the black and gold finally melded into a unit. They hustled. They banged. They drove to the net. They stuck up for each other in scrums.

In short, they did everything a team could do to win. Unfortunately, New York was better.

Give the Rangers credit. They didn’t earn the Presidents’ Trophy by accident. They’re a really good team. They don’t get rattled; they don’t waver from coach Alain Vigneault’s well-conceived game plan. They just keep coming.

In many ways they’re a reflection of goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who’s morphed at age 33 into a virtual brick-wall between the pipes. “King Henrik” doesn’t give you many chances. Neither do the Rangers.

One such rare occurrence took place in the waning seconds of regulation when Lundqvist inexplicably vacated his net. Veteran Dan Girardi coolly stepped in to sweep the puck from harm’s way.

Back to our Penguins. Things don’t look too rosy. Not with the series returning to New York for Game 5. Certainly not with Kris Letang on the shelf and Evgeni Malkin MIA—at least on the score sheet.

It’s a shame, because there are positives. Sidney Crosby’s line played with buzz-saw intensity. Has since the series-opening draw. Patric Hornqvist is doing exactly what he was acquired to do—score playoff-style goals. Fleury bares scant resemblance to the shaky underachiever of playoffs past. The tandem of erstwhile Baby Pens Brian Dumoulin and Taylor Chorney? Remarkably poised.

A final point. As an organization, the Pens need to take special note of the winning goal. Who scored it and—just as important—the circumstances surrounding it. The goal-getter—Kevin Hayes. Twenty-two years old. Power forward (6’3” 205). Able to camp near the net and fend off opposing defenders. Just as he did on the overtime winner.

Precisely the type of player the Pens need.

On the defensive side, four black-and-gold players set up a protective ring around Fleury. Not one took the body.

That doesn’t happen on Stanley Cup champions.

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  1. Jim's Gravatar Jim
    April 23, 2015 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Rick,
    What do we do next year ? As a team we can not keep repeating the same mistakes year after year and expect a different result ! Things need to change. Big time.These changes will be PAINFUL. Not easy to do.
    What has impressed me is that during the past two or three years, many teams in our conference have become much better, but we as a team have not kept pace.The other teams all have large, young,talented players who are now contributing to winning the Cup. Tampa,Columbus,Islanders,Ottawa,Washington,Rangers, Montreal and others have all increased their skill, size, and team speed. Why has not the Pens? Because we rely to much on Crosby and Malkin. Since losing the Stall line our team has simply not been the same. What are we going to do?
    We have no draft picks !! Future does not look to good to Win a cup with the core we have now.

    I was reminded today that each home Play off game is worth 3 to 3.5 million dollars to the Penguins.( depending on the round). If we were expected to go deep in the playoffs, ( semi finals) and have 9 home games..The revenue would be about 30 million dollars. IF WE WIN 2 HOME GAMES ONLY, somebody just lost about 24 million dollars in potential revenue. 24 Million !! With out that extra 24 million in revenue, the total dollar value of your franchise drops by at least 4 to 1 ratio . Maybe more. That represents a 100 million dollar loss in book value of the Pens as a franchise. In any business, it is all about cash flow.
    Burkle and company do not like to lose these vast amounts of money.

    What would you do for next year Rick ?

    • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
      April 24, 2015 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Wow, Jim. GREAT thoughts and observations, on so many levels.

      We’ll start with the financial aspect. I never sat down and did the math, as you did, to calculate the cost of an early playoff exit. My goodness, a $24 million shortfall? How can that not have a major impact on the team’s finances and decision-making.

      I also agree with your assertion that other teams in the conference have caught up to us and even passed us in terms of overall talent and potential. I wouldn’t have said this as recently as two years ago, when we lost to the Bruins in the Conference Finals. But there are numerous teams I’d trade places with at the drop of a hat. Florida for one. And I love the type of team they’re building in Columbus.

      You asked me what I’d do going forward. Yikes, that’s a tough one. I wrote last year that I felt the window to win another Cup had closed, and I feel even more strongly about it now. From a pure hockey standpoint, I think I’d tear it down and start to rebuild. They do have a nucleus in place for a good, young defense. I’d let Martin and Ehrhoff walk. I don’t know if they can do anything with Scuderi (2 years left on his contract). But if he stays, I’d use him as a spare d-man and unofficial playing coach. I’d try to bring in a veteran on the cheap who plays a tough, defense-first style. Don’t have anybody in mind off the top of my head. But someone to provide some backbone and leadership.

      The forwards are a lot more problematic. The long-term deals for Dupuis and Kunitz sure don’t help. Neither does trading a first-round pick for Perron, a deal that’s looking worse with each non-productive game. Adams, Lapierre, Winnik, Comeau and Downie are UFAs. I think the first three are gone. I like Downie, but I don’t know if the Pens do. Assume he’s gone. That leaves Comeau, maybe, as a guy they try to resign. Beau Bennett’s an RFA…I let him walk. I know he’s got skill, but he doesn’t produce.

      As much as it pains me to write it, perhaps it’s time to choose between Crosby and Malkin as the core of your team and trade the other for forward prospects and/or draft picks. It’s a bit of a crapshoot—if you do this, you’ve got to make sure you’re getting value in return. Remember the Jaromir Jagr trade? We got Kris Beech, Ross Lupaschuk, and Michal Sivek.

      The lack of bona fide young forward talent in the pipeline is a killer. We’re all hoping Kasperi Kapanen is the real thing, but that remains to be seen. Ditto Oskar Sundqvist, who should provide size and some badly needed abrasiveness. Among the Baby Pens, Scott Wilson, Jayson Megna, Bryan Rust and Conor Sheary are the best of the bunch. I don’t think any are going to be big contributors in the NHL. Bobby Farnham and Adam Payerl could probably fill fourth-line roles. But they’re marginal talents at best.

      What the Pens need to do is draft, and draft well. Make every pick count. Obviously, the greatest need is up front, so stay away from defensemen unless the kid’s an absolute can’t-miss prospect. And for goodness sake, start drafting and signing players with size and character. Look to Western Canada, where they grow ‘em bigger and meaner. Enough of the little speedball American collegiate players who generally don’t amount to anything at the pro level.

      It would mean a few lean years, to be sure. Maybe even missing the playoffs for a couple while the pieces fall into place. But I think it’s their best course of action.

      Of course, that ignores the financial implications. Let’s face it, Mario and Burkle have an investment to protect and tickets to sell. I’m sure a total rebuild is the last thing either of them want. But every sports team goes through cycles. A downturn is coming. It’s just a matter of when.

      • Rick Buker's Gravatar Rick Buker
        April 24, 2015 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        I neglected to touch on this point. But an integral part of the rebuilding process would be a shift in philosophy. I would move from the puck possession (kill ‘em with skill) style that clearly doesn’t work in today’s NHL to a more balanced approach. That will require adding at least some players with the size and strength to play a “heavy” game. When evaluating young talent, qualities such as character, drive, and leadership should be emphasized.

        Such a change would require buy-in from coach Mike Johnston, a staunch puck-possession guy. Frankly, I’m not sure that would work. Claude Julien’s days are rumored to be numbered in Boston. If so, he’s someone I’d be interested in bringing in.

      • Jim's Gravatar Jim
        April 24, 2015 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the candid assessment of our team Rick. I agree with your ideas moving forward.Great insight.
        It is sometimes amusing to play arm chair GM.
        My two cents worth would be the following.
        1.Offer a 10% discount to all season ticket holders for 2016 season. Got to keep them happy. Send them a cheque and a personal signed letter from Mario explaining the serious changes in the coming year.Everybody likes to receive cheques.
        2. Trade Matt Murray..goalie in WBS for a high first round pick ?.MAF made a believer out of me this year.He played really well. Maybe combine Martin,Harrington and Bennett to go after a top 5 pick.
        3.Trade Crosby and local boy Tristin Jarry to Edmonton for Hall,Yakapov, top draft pick in 2013 d man Darnell Nurse and the number 1 pick. Throw in Chris Kunitz , Suds, and Perron and get our 1st round pick back. This one may take money to the Oilers to make it work.Pay the money!
        4.ILYA Kolvachuk ? Reports say he wants to return to the NHL.He is a friend of Malkin. I think he is a UFA once he gets NHL permission to return.Sign him.
        5.Upgrade the veteran presence on the defense as u suggested.
        6.Sign a few more free agents with size and talent.
        My line up would be.

        Kolvachuk Malkin Yakapov
        Hall McDavid Hornquist
        Comeau Sutter top 5 pick 2015
        Free agent Sundquist Downie

        Matta Letang
        Free agent Dumelon?
        Cole Pouleot

        Free Agent

        Assuming Crosby would Co operate. I really like the play,poise and professionalism of Sid Crosby. He is not the problem in Pittsburgh…but his market value is the highest right now.
        That is the only reason I would suggest this.
        Finally Rick, it also pains me to write an article like this. I have read your blog for a few years and only recently have I commented. I never blogged before.
        I am a Pens fan for the past 15 years. I really hope they win tonight and then 14 more games this year.

        Thanks for allowing me the space to share my ideas.

  2. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    April 23, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know if Martin pays to watch the game or does he get in for free?

  3. pen's 4ever's Gravatar pen's 4ever
    April 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Is it just me or every time the whistle blows and coach Mike is on camera he looks confused or unsure of why the refs stopped the play!!

  4. 55 on point's Gravatar 55 on point
    April 23, 2015 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Rick, especially the description of the game-winning goal. That, plus the fact that having given their all in this series, clearly points to the fact that their all isn’t quite enough, regardless of man games lost. These two items alone should illuminate a clear path to follow in the off season. That, of course, remains to be seen.


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