- Too much flux. I admit it, I was so swept away by the trade deadline moves that I was completely blinded by how bad the moves actually were. We were playing such a fast game to that point and then we brought in 4 slow players. Players that were supposed to make up for the lack of speed with their intelligence and desire to win a cup. Murray had some flashes of good play, but for the most part is a liability because of his skating. My grandma could skate better than Murray. Iginla has completely crumbled under the pressure. Sure he put up some points against the Isles and Sens, but even then, he didn't have one game with the Pens where I said, "Wow look at Iggy go, he is one of the all time greats." Instead, he shows a flash of scoring touch every once in a while, while playing poorly defensively and not meshing that well with anyone on our team. His inability to play the left-wing has been a huge problem. Morrow has been the same, he is okay on D but has brought very little offensively. His stick handling is atrocious, and while he has been virtually our only net front presence, he hasn't done that very effectively and his lack of speed have made him behind the play more often than not. Obviously, hind sight is 20/20, but there were definitely people on this blog who didn't like the moves and provided similar reasons why they were not good moves and they were right. Boy was I wrong. These guys were put into an extremely high-pressure situation and they buckled under that pressure.
- Preparation (mental and game plan). It seems that HCDB's game plan for the Bruins was just wrong. I don't know how to explain why, but he didn't figure out what we needed to do to play well against the Bruins. The Pens always want to dictate the play, but when that fails, it seems they have no structure to fall back on. Everyone talks about the Bruins being structured and disciplined, you'd think the team would be ready to expose that and break through somehow, have a plan to break through that structure and get them off their game, but they seemed to be insistent that they can keep playing their game and that teams will just crumble and fall over. We had 7 days to prepare for the Bruins, and they were simply unprepared. I put that on HCDB and the team leaders.
- Mental Weakness. One of the problems with this team and coaching staff is mental weakness and lack of passion, too much of a professional vibe on the team, not enough grit, determination, and passion. But behind that, they seem to be unconcerned with playing the way they need to win. They just figure, we can score at will and have nothing to fall back on when that doesn't work, they figure, we'll just be this offensive juggernaut that can free flow and play creatively and forget about everything else. That is something that can easliy be game planned for. The Bruins play smart, disciplined hockey. The Pens play creatively as individuals, and that has gotten us far, but we don't play like a team, especially on defense. They have some of the smartest players in the league, Bergeron and Krejci are not the flashiest talents, but they are great defensively and play smart and to their strengths. Boston plays a team game and are thus larger than the sum of it's parts.
- Unwillingness to play rookies. Look at the other teams in the playoffs and the rookies they play:
LA - Jake Muzzin, played pretty much all season due to the Willie Mitchell injury. Not the worlds greatest player, but they chose him, stuck with him, and he has played admirably for them. He was the rookie of the month in March, and has played pretty well in his first playoffs, considering his lack of experience. Tyler Toffoli, has been in and out of the line-up, but has had some really big games for the Kings and has been able to step up, even without a consistent role. He was the Kings best player in Game 2 against San Jose and lead the team to a comeback victory with less than two minutes to play. They lose that game, they probably lose that series, so that was a HUGE performance.
Chicago - Brandon Saad. Hasn't played as well in the playoffs as he had in the regular season, but played most of the year with Toews and Hossa and had been a huge spark for the Hawks. Even though he hasn't been great in the post season, he hasn't gotten benched.
Boston - Torey Krug. Injury necessitated this move, and boy were the Bruins lucky, this kid was on fire during the Rangers series, and he has yet to really disappoint in the ECF.
Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, all of our rookies have been mainly riding the bench in the name of supposedly more reliable players. You know when I would ever play Niskanen or Engo over Despres, never. Not that Engo has been horrible against the B's, but Niskanen has just been awful all post season, he's supposedly a two-way D, but he brings virtually nothing offensively and absolutely sucks defensively, I don't care what the stats say about him, he has miserably failed the eyeball test and I hope to never see him in a Pens uniform again. At some point you need to let this Despres kid have a shot. Sure he made some blunders in his first two games, but if you keep working those players, they get better, as Despres showed when he came back in the Isles series. Bennett has gotten better every time he's played, so why not give him a consistent shot. I just cannot believe that they gave Zach Boychuk a shot before Bennett. That is just the stupidest thing that's happened all season in Pittsburgh. This also falls on HCDB, he simply hasn't had the balls to play rookies and stick with them when his other players are not playing well.
- Goaltending. I fucking love MAF, he is one of my all time favorite Pens. But unfortunately, he has to go. He is mentally weak and has always been inconsistent in the playoffs, even when making back to back cup appearances. Sure he won a cup and played some great hockey in the playoffs. But if you don't deal with your neuroses at a young age they only get worse, and boy have they gotten worse. He is a stellar regular season goalie, but his mental problems make him a liability in the playoffs. He was always the question mark on this team, even in 08 and 09. My Dad and I always used to say, well, if Fleury plays like he can we'll win a cup, if he doesn't, we're toast. I would keep Vokoun as a back-up, and he has played admirably in these playoff's. But the point is that he shouldn't be in there at all. Having to go to your back-up goalie after 4 games is not a recipe for playoff success.
- Letang doesn't have a partner. Letang is not the problem per se, although his defensive play has been atrocious for most of the playoffs. I think the problem is that he needs a consistent line-mate, a responsible, defensive defenseman that will be a steadying force that he needs. They basically put so much pressure on Letang that I think he feels he has to do everything, and then ends up exposing himself on the defensive end. I blame the lack of the correct d-partner more than anything else. He needs to paired up with a stellar defender that plays responsible hockey, not this musical chairs where he plays with everyone and their brother.
- These players need to go -
MAF - As stated above, he is not consistent enough to play on a team with no defense. Probably needs a change of scenery, where the pressure is not squarely on his shoulders all the time.
Niskanen - Also stated above. Niskanen has done absolutely nothing in a Pens uni. and is our biggest defensive liability night in and night out, don't care what the stats say, he has not done anything but sucked on D and has been virtually nowhere to be found offensively.
Murray - Not worth keeping at all, a bust of a trade.
Iginla - His career is over, and is most likely one of the bulletin board items that factored in to the Bruins playing the way they are. It was the same way when Hossa chose Detroit over Pittsburgh and then lost to the Pens in the 09 finals. That was some great bulletin board material for that series and was definitely one of those hidden motivational factors that no one wants to admit, but is huge in a series.
Morrow - Too slow and on the decline to keep. Hasn't shown the leadership that we expected.
TK - Not consistent enough, not a good top-six forward, and not a good bottom six-forward either. Some flashes of brilliance and some big playoff goals, but not big-enough to warrant keeping around.
Probably should go-
Orpik - Orpik seems to be losing his game a little more each year, sad to say, as he is part of the core of this team, but I don't see him playing any better down the stretch of his career, so why waste a roster spot on him.
Martin - Not good enough defensively to justify his mediocre offensive game and paycheck. He seems to lack intensity, and one decent season in three years in Pittsburgh does not justify his cap-hit. He has had a pretty average post-season this year and was god-awful last year.
Cookie - I'm on the fence on Cookie, he is a solid third liner and plays fairly consistently as a third liner, but could we fill that with another player, probably.
Adams - Maybe keep him around as depth guy, but he's on the decline and I while don't see him as a huge part of the problem, I don't see him as a big part of the solution either.
Glass - No idea why this guy was ever brought in. Pretty much a non-factor. Seems like the PK started playing well when he got benched, coincidence, probably not.
DO NOT TRADE or LET GO - Malkin, Letang. This would be the stupidest thing to do. Along with Crosby, they are they core stars of this team. I have a feeling that Letang will grow a lot after his play this post-season, and I want to be there when he figures out how to play a consistent two-way game in the playoffs, because he will be a force. As I said above, he needs a consistent, defensive-mined partner to play with. People forget that Crosby, Malkin and Letang have technically just entered their "prime", meaning they are at the age that many feel are an athlete's prime years.
Duper and Kunitz, if they continue to play as well as they have for the last two seasons, they should stay in the top six, but the beauty is, that even if their offense tails off, they could find different players to play with Sid, and then have Kunitz and Dupuis play in the bottom six, which they would be some of the best bottom six forwards in the league.
At any rate, this has been a long rant by a very disappointed fan. Obviously hind-sight is 20/20 and it's easy to make a lot of these points after the fact. It easily could have gone the other way, especially regarding the trade acquisitions. Those things are 50/50, if those guys play lights out, then Shero is a genius, if they don't, then we should have gotten different players. I don't blame Shero for trying, other than Murray, those moves all looked pretty solid on paper.
As for the rest of this series, let's hope I'm wrong about everything and I will gladly eat these words if we can come back and win this. But I just don't see it happening. This team lacks the mental fortitude to bounce back from an 0-3 hole.