Well, here we are again for the third year in a row. Once again, the Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated in the first round by the New York Islanders. Many people figured this was the year for the Penguins but they had some flaws come out in the playoffs that hurt them. In 2019 they got swept by the Islanders in the first round, in 2020 they lost to Montreal in the play-in round, and now in 2021, they lost in the First Round to the Islanders once again. The Pittsburgh Penguins playoffs hopes diminished as the series went on. You can guarantee with new management we’ll be seeing some major off-season moves done. The team could be moving in the direction of the R-word which will not be spoken. Often people in hockey will say you can’t blame a game or a series on one component; well, in the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins we can.
Pittsburgh Penguins Make Few Mistakes in Playoffs, Failed by Goaltending
Although you can’t say too many good things due to the result, there was only one game where the Penguins really should’ve lost and that was Game 4. They dominated the entire series however they experienced weak goaltending while facing strong goaltending at the other end. This will be an interesting off-season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins can’t even say they didn’t deserve to win because they played great while eventually solving Ilya Sorokin who played great for the Islanders all series. New York’s offence always comes alive vs. the Penguins and we definitely saw that in this series.
The Penguins’ top unit of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and Bryan Rust was definitely quiet all series. Sidney Crosby got it going in game one with a highlight reel deflection and only managed to get one more point through the next five games. Jake Guentzel was the same, collecting two points in six games. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the usual playoff monster he is. Bryan Rust was also invisible in most games, not providing much offensively, which is surprising considering his regular-season play. Many say they were getting pushed around by a big New York team which could very well be the case, as they’re all average-sized guys. They’ll need to learn how to push through it if they want to continue leading this skill-based team. They were pretty big defensive liabilities as they finished the playoffs with 3.46 goals against per 60 minutes (GA/60) and 72 shot attempts against. It was a rough one for one of the best lines in the league.
You really can’t go off on the players. The forwards and defence played some great hockey these playoffs. The one player you can blame is Tristan Jarry. He was atrocious in net, singlehandedly costing them a double-overtime loss in game 5. He truly had one of the worst playoff performances in NHL history. To sum it up, he maintained an expected goals-against-average of 13.06 while managing to get 21 goals against. The young goalie couldn’t help but give up the most important goals of the game when they finally got a lead. In the meantime, Penguins fans hope he’s working on his glove side. He also gave off the most rebounds which ultimately resulted in the Kyle Palmieri timely goal in game 6. This is a season to forget for Tristan Jarry. When all was said and done, the goalie finished with a league-worst -7.9 goals saved above expected (GSAx) and -1.32 wins above replacement (WAR) in the playoffs.
For two straight years, the Penguins once-upon-a-time saviour head coach has made some interesting decisions come playoff time. In the bubble, he chose to continuously play Jack Johnson throughout his atrocious play and this year, it was clearer what his multiple mistakes were throughout the six-game series. This year, he insisted on keeping the first line together after being one of the team’s worst lines offensively and defensively. It seems like things are getting too personal for Mike Sullivan. Another questionable mistake he made was regarding Tristan Jarry who remained a starter after the double OT mishap. He kept the struggling goaltender in the net besides having an average backup in Maxime Lagace. Anyone would’ve played better than Jarry. One of the only positive decisions Mike Sullivan made was putting Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Bryan Rust on the ice together in Game 5 which resulted in a goal. It may be time to move on — a change of staff may be what this team needs. Insert Gerard Gallant.
Where To Go From Here
Although Pierre McGuire and Islanders fans like to think Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock are defensive animals and the reason the Islanders won the series, Pittsburgh really hemmed the combo in their own end which resulted in that pairing being their worst defensively. The pair finished with 3.9 expected goals against (xGA) and 3.3 expected goals for (xGF). You can’t take it away that they’re a great offensive pairing. The Penguins can’t dwell on this series as the whole team played great besides the goaltending. You can guarantee new GM Ron Hextall will look to make some moves this off-season. The Pittsburgh Penguins playoffs stars are ageing so they’ll be needing some extra help. The team accomplished winning the very tight East division this year although they disappointed in the playoffs. There’s lots to look forward to as a group. You can bet they’ll look to add more to their roster this offseason while hoping to resign some depth guys. They’re still in the cup window as long as they have Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang. Things are looking up from this season.
Embed from Getty Images