Despite a valiant effort, the Pittsburgh Penguins just couldn't stack up against the New York Rangers in Game 5, or the whole series, really. Too many defensive injuries to overcome, and not enough skill plays to beat the very good Henrik Lundqvist.
There are no such thing as moral victories in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. Only wins and losses. The Penguins lost 4 games to the Rangers, so they're out. Even though all 4 losses were by 2-1 scores, including the last 2 in overtime, it matters nonetheless. But as fans, if you want, you can take heart in the effort and resiliency the Pens showed.
And it has to start with Marc-Andre Fleury - the undisputed worst playoff goalie in the league from 2010-13. A guy who looked like he didn't even know how to play the position at times and was killing the teams chance to win. Those days are long in the past now, with Fleury capping off a fantastic series, even in defeat. He stopped 36 of 38 shots tonight, which sounds great, but his performance was even better as he single-handedly held the team in the game early as they floundered and before they found their legs.
But they finally did find those legs, outshooting NYR by a combined margin of 27-19 in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Pittsburgh was carrying the play, spending shifts in the offensive zone- grinding, cycling, pushing, working- it was impressive to see. Bodies and pucks to Lundqvist's net all night, but he was up to the task. Or, his cross-bar was as Sidney Crosby found out.
And so it goes. The season ends unsatisfactorily for 29 teams every year. And it will for Pittsburgh this year. But the bad taste in our mouths now will fade away with summer and the hope of a new season will dawn in the fall with training camp.
We'll be there for that and the rollercoaster of the off-season moves and wheelings and dealings, so join us for it. 2014-15 was the best season ever for Pensburgh, as we set traffic, content and commenting records and we owe it all to you. Tip of the cap to all, and we'll get back at it for better days soon enough.
A few more final thoughts:
- One more cheer for Fleury.. He'll end the season with a .927 save percentage and 2.12 GAA. Only 6 ES goals allowed in 5 games (and only 11 total). Not deserving of his 1-4 record, but unfortunately deserve got nothin' to do with it.
- Paul Martin with a team-high 28:05 in what was almost certainly his last game as a Penguin. In as a hired gun, out as one too after a 5 year contract that saw a lot of effort and pain, but unfortunately no major prize. Best of luck to him.
- If anyone knows what Rob Scuderi was doing in front of the net on the first NYR goal, you'll have to let us know. Hopefully this was his last game in a Penguin jersey too, but we'll see how the off-season goes.
- Also, the Craig Adams Pittsburgh era 2009-15 goes out with a whimper with the veteran a healthy scratch in each of the 5 playoff games. Sayanora!
- Evgeni Malkin with a team high 6 shots on goal in the game, but held off the board for every game of the playoffs. Hopefully we hear what his injury was that's plagued him since mid-March, something has obviously kept him from 100%, but he left everything he had on the ice, so ya gotta commend him for that.
- Maxim Lapierre won 75% of his 16 draws and was easily the best regular centerman in the circle tonight. And did a great chicken taunt at Dan Boyle that needs to be preserved.
- Kudos NHL public relations for a great in-net shot of Nick Spaling with a look of pure joy after scoring a goal. Those looks were few and far between, unfortunately.
At the end of the day, the Pittsburgh Penguins bow out to a better team. The Rangers won the Presidents Trophy for a reason- they are deep and skilled in all three areas (forward, defense, goalie) and controlled play, as they should have considering the lineups on paper greatly favored them.
But, at the same time, especially with the last 2 games ending in OT, we were literally a couple of bounces away from a completely different series. Looking back on it, when the Penguins won the Cup in 2009, they could have easily been knocked out by Philadelphia (lol) or Washington early in the playoffs with tightly contested games. Luckily, they came out on the good side then. This year, it was the bad side.
No need to complain too much though, if anything as a Penguin fan I'm encouraged by the way the team played. They didn't have 4 out of 5 of their best puck-moving defensemen, yet they mucked out 4 really tight, really close 1 goal losses. No shame in that.
This is a team in transition that clearly needs more skill, better supporting players for Crosby, Malkin and Fleury in order to get back to where they want to be. But it wasn't for a lack of effort, and it wasn't a meltdown of emotions that knocked the Pens out. It was a better team this year.
Nothing left to do now, but hope the Pens can build a better team for next year to come back and do it again. And maybe, just maybe, they'll be healthy and get the bounces next time to go further in the process. That's what we'll all come back for, and that's the hope. Go Pens.