It's tough to be coherent when all you want to do is throw a beer at your TV and hope it hits every Penguin upside the head.
But despite watching the Penguins completely lose any grasp of this game in the third period and seeing the effect trickle down to the fans, we still have to remember the series is only tied.
Let me rephrase that.
The Islanders are firing on all cylinders and couldn't be doing much more right (minus Evgeni Nabokov who has been abysmal but obviously not a huge factor). The Pens, on the other hand, have been just short of disgraceful the last three games. And the series is still tied.
Like I said in the game thread: The result of this series is 100-percent up to them depending on what team wants to show up. The Pens have so much more to show for talent on the roster, and the ability to turn this series around rests solely on their sticks at this point. Remain the status quo and the Pens will be taking part in the handshake of shame on Saturday, no question.
If I went through all of the things that went wrong during the game, I'd be here till Game 5 puck drop, but to name a few:
- Inability to clear the zone: Kris Letang was just a mess which made it interesting to hear the NBC guys fawn all over him and his recent Norris nomination. But it goes beyond Letang. Matt Niskanen can't break out of the zone to save his life. Both players had great seasons, but are now falling short when they need to be on top of their game. At times, there are too many touches in the defensive zone which means more time for the Isles to set up. Other times, one bad touch leads to a turnover and scoring opportunity for the Isles. The Pens need to show more awareness with the puck and not rely on the fact that they're a talented bunch. Offense isn't helping the defense on this end either. This leads to...
- Inability to maintain a forecheck: Any time the Pens bring home a loss, this is always a reason without fail. The Pens may have outshot the Isles, but just couldn't get the mo rolling with someone consistent offense. The Isles were everywhere and did a superb job getting in lanes and blocking shots followed by quick counters led by their speedy forwards. The Pens have been able to catch Nabokov out of place numerous times, but rarely are they outworking the Isles defense to get the puck in the back of the net. This is where the Pens should be excelling. Maybe a change in roster here could help? I think this is when Joe Vitale in place of Tanner Glass could be a minor move but bring bigger rewards.
- Marc-Andre Fleury: I tend to protect goalies but Fleury deserves some heat right now. Just because the defense in front of you gives up, doesn't mean you can, too. Outside of Game 1, Fleury isn't playing like a goalie who wants to send his team deep in the playoffs. Goals four and six were tough to ingest because it requires such a loss of focus that we just shouldn't be seeing from a player who won a Stanley Cup. But from the looks of him on the bench after the final whistle, every insult we've hurled his way is something he's probably said to himself. And for the record, I am in full support of starting Tomas Vokoun in Game 5. The Pens could use a cool head and if Vokoun also falters, then Fleury tends to perform well after being benched.
- Leadership: Was there any of this on the ice? Have we really seen any of this lately? The Pens are a team with plenty of Cup winners and veterans, but it doesn't seem like this team is meshing the way they should be. Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow, individually, have been invisible regardless of their point totals. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby have put on some good performances, but it isn't enough. It simply makes no sense that the Pens are playing like they are and then acting frustrated in the dressing room as if one behavior doesn't lead to the other. It seems like someone needs to step up and find a way to get this team on the same page.
One positive I can pull from the game was how the Pens were able to score within a minute of Isles goals. This kind of response is reassuring even though the Pens haven't been able to benefit from those kinds of plays. The Pens have to draw on that mindset that they can pull themselves out of holes because they're in one right now, even though the series doesn't dictate it as much.
The problems the Pens are facing aren't hopeless; they're very fixable. It has little to do with people's issues with Dan Bylsma and if he's the problem (which he isn't since his ability to adjust systems for the Pens and for the Isles has been made known). It's being smarter with the puck. It's having more a workman's mentality when taking the ice. These are all little things that should've been habits by the end of the season, but for some reason, have been forgotten.
The little things done right will take the Pens very far.
And it has to start Thursday.