After the devastating playoff loss to the Flyers in 2012, Penguins fans were looking for good news. The first piece of wonderful news was that half of the season would be cancelled due to a lockout. It would eventually be resolved, and hockey would kick off in January with a 48-game regular season.
The Penguins team to start this season would be missing one familiar face and featured a new one -- Jordan Staal had been traded to the Hurricanes at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh one exchange for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin, and Carolina’s 1st round pick, which was used to select Derrick Pouliot.
It was odd watching a team play in the shortened season, because everything happened so fast, without much wiggle room for error. Before you knew it, the trade deadline was upon us.
Ray Shero started making moves:
First, Brenden Morrow, acquired from the Dallas Stars for Joe Morrow and an exchange of draft picks between the teams. Shortly thereafter, Shero went and acquired Douglas Murray from the Sharks, for two second round picks. The coup de grace, or what felt like it was supposed to be — came in the middle of the night leading up to the deadline when Jarome Iginla was acquired from the Flames, for a 1st round pick, Kenny Agostino, and Ben Hanowski. It felt like the stars were aligning, and the Pens were loading up for another Stanley Cup run.
Some bullshit Saturday at the end of March, we’re all sitting around watching an afternoon game against the Islanders, a few weeks before the playoffs were ready to start. And it happened.
Later that night, or the next day, we’d find out that Crosby was going to be out indefinitely with a broken jaw.
The Penguins would make their playoff push, and their first round opponent — the New York Islanders
Goaltending Still an Issue
It was pretty evident early on the series against the Islanders that they were there to play and weren’t going to be pushed around. John Tavares and Kyle Okposo were relentless. Travis Hamonic played a remarkable villain.
But the bottom line was the same mantra from a year earlier. After a 5-0 shutout in Game 1, Marc-Andre Fleury couldn’t keep the puck out of the net.
The Penguins would welcome Crosby back to the lineup for Game 2, but would lose the game 4-3.
Chris Kunitz scored a massive power-play goal in Game 3 on Long Island to give the Penguins a lead, but the speedy Islanders gave the Penguins fits yet again in Game 4, scoring six goals in a 6-4 win.
After this game, Dan Bylsma would give the nod in net to Tomas Vokoun, who became a steadying presence in net. The Pens would stop messing around and win Game 5 easily. Game 6 required them to dig back. Trailing in the third, Evgeni Malkin took the team on his back to set up both the game-tying and series-winning goals.
Brooks Orpik, of all guys, with the winner.
A Quick Walk Back to the Eastern Conference Final
After the Pens dug back to get past the Islanders, the Ottawa Senators were the next opponent — for the 4th time in 7 years. This Senators team was vastly different than the ones the Penguins faced in years past, and they weren’t even close to being up to the task.
The Penguins outmatched them en route to two wins at home to start the series before going to Ottawa for Game 3. The Senators would take Game 3 in 2 Overtimes, and I’m pretty sure they’re still blowing that damn horn.
Paul MacLean has a meltdown
“I think it’s all right here. 7 to 3. See you in Pittsburgh. We're going to Pittsburgh and we're coming to play."
Daniel Alfredsson when asked about his team and their chances to come back gave an all-timer.
"Probably not," Alfredsson said. "[Pittsburgh's] depth and our play right now … it doesn't look too good.
"When you look at what we did, it wasn't good enough. Does that mean [Pittsburgh] was good? Did we make them good? Who really cares? From our point of view, we didn't manage the puck [well], we didn't execute our passes, and subsequently, we got punished in the neutral zone. We turned way too many pucks over and gave them some freebies. It would have been nice to have the lead for a little bit longer, but now we're back on our heels again. We didn't shut them down when it matters."
They Probably Did Not Come Back in the series
A James Neal hat-trick en route to a 6-2 win to close out the series in Game 5 was a fun way to relax and enjoy some goal scoring. Little did we know, the goals would dry up significantly after this.
Back to the Eastern Conference Final
The Penguins are about to make their third appearance in the Eastern Conference Final in the last six seasons. They just scored 13 goals in their last two games. What a time to be flying high into a series where you can just keep rolling your way back to the Stanley Cup Final. The Boston Bruins had other ideas.
The Penguins would be shut out and pushed around at home in Game 1.
Matters would get worse when they would get embarrassed by a score of 6-1 in Game 2. NOT IDEAL.
You head to Boston already behind the 8-ball. A 2OT game at TD Garden. Just agonizing. Jaromir Jagr gets away with a hook on Evgeni Malkin and just like that, the series is 3-0.
It felt quite fitting, in a way that the Bruins would win Game 4 by the basic score of 1-0 and sweep the series.
The Penguins didn’t win a damn game. TWO GOALS scored in four games. That’s pathetic. The buried piece of frustration that I’m going to let out now — DAN BYLSMA PLAYED JAROME IGINLA, YES, JAROME IGINLA, ON HIS OFF WING. WHY? It clearly still bothers me.
Looking back at this run, I think I’d rather the Penguins have lost in the first or second round than made it to the Eastern Conference Final to get swept and score two goals. It just feels like you’ve wasted your time and two weeks of your offseason when you make it that far and don’t even show up.
One would assume that losing in this fashion might bring some changes to the organization, but yet.......