• Elite Hockey Experience
 

Penguins Can't Fly

2019-05-31

PITTSBURGH - It's always tough to make the playoffs. It's even tougher to win the Stanley Cup, let alone make it to the Final. This year, the Penguins showed just how hard it is when they were defeated in the first round by the Rangers in five games. It seemed like no matter what the Penguins did, the Rangers had an answer for them. The Rangers were the better team through and through, but there was a lot of promise with this Penguins team that will certaintly sting for the fans, playes, and management alike. There was good and bad throughout this playoff run. Let's dive into what they were.

GOOD:

Brandon Saad came alive

After a pretty underwhelming season which saw Saad bounce throughout the lineup and only put up 16G 15A in 81GP, the playoffs would be a new slate for him. After calling for more in a previous article, Saad would deliver, putting up three goals in the five games while settling in on the third line with Mark Letestu and Jaromir Jagr. He was arguably the best player for the Penguins outside of Devan Dubnyk, and that would be seen with his elevation to the 2nd line with Jason Zucker and Paul Stastny for Game 5. In that fifth game, Saad would have seven shot attempts in the quadruple overtime thriller, with only one of them hitting the net, and another ringing the post in overtime that would have sent the Penguins back to Pittsburgh for Game 6. Game 5 for Saad and the series as a whole showed that even when the puck wasn't going in, he was trying to make things happen for his team.

Devan Dubnyk is still a beast

Imagine having a 1-4 record in the playoffs, yet you have a 1.91 GAA and a .934 save%. That's Dubnyk in a nutshell. The Penguins horse in net proved once again he was worth the franchise tag as well as every dollar GM Gurtowski is paying him. Dubnyk stopped 169 of 181 in the five game series, and was THE reason why Games 3, 4, and 5 were all one goal contests. The blame deserves to be spread to the whole team in a losing effort, but if there's one person who shouldn't be at fault, it's Dubnyk.

Mattias Ekholm is a Norris caliber defenseman

Mattias Ekholm is not really a sexy name when you consider this league has high scoring defenseman like Alex Pietrangelo, Roman Josi, and Kris Letang. However in his second full season with Pittsburgh, Ekholm would explode offensively in the regular season and that would continue to manifest in the playoffs. He was second on the team in points with 3G 2A in 5GP, as well as being on the ice in all situations, Ekholm further proved that he was a sturdy defenseman who would lock the game down defensively but also lead the charge offensively. He also played almost 58 minutes in the quadruple overtime loss in Game 5, which is just ridiculous, when you considered he looked fresh and reliable the whole way through. A pending UFA, GM Gurtowski has made it his mission to bring Ekholm back. We will see what happens.

Jaromir Jagr survived

The dude is 47 years old and played well over 20 minutes in Game 5's OT thriller. Credit to the training staff for having the "fruit and crap" on standby.

BAD

Jamie Benn disappears in playoffs... again

Jamie Benn could easily be a Hart Trophy candidate this season, if not win the whole thing. He scored 48G 58A in 82GP this season and a lot of times this season was the only good thing for the Penguins. He's the captain, has a franchise tag, and is fourth best in goals in EHE history. However in spite of those stunning regular season numbers, his play in the post season has been the exact opposite. He has 186G in 376 regular season GP (0.49 GPG) but only 16G in 45 playoff GP (0.33 GPG). That stat is especially damning when one considers that since 2016, Benn has two goals in nineteen playoff games. Benn for the third playoff year in a row has disappeared, and if the Penguins want any long term success, they need to get Benn to be his normal self beyond the regular season.

Zucker/Stastny bromance needs more fire

Despite only playing in 15 regular season games together, Jason Zucker and Paul Stastny developed instant chemistry. Some may even say a bromance was brewing. Zucker (9G 6A) and Stastny (2G 13A) were virtually unstoppable whenever they were out on the ice, and whether they were with Ales Hemsky or Brandon Saad, that line found ways to make things happen. However come playoff time, both of them dried up more than California during the 2014 drought. Zucker and Stastny would combine for one assist in the five game series with the Rangers, often times being victimized by the Rangers top 6, with each of them sporting a -3 rating. The argument could be made that this dynamic duo going silent contributed heavily to the Penguins loss against the Rangers. Just one goal from each of them could have been the difference between losing in five games and pushing to Game 6. Zucker is a restricted free agent, so there's reason to believe that once his contract is taken care of, this duo can come in next season and light the hockey world on fire like they did to end the regular season. But at the end of the day, playoff success is what costs and protects jobs.

Power Play not powerful enough

The Penguins powerplay was abhorrent in the playoffs. Plain and simple. They end the series with a 3/34 rating, which is an 8.8% clip, including going 0/5, 0/5, and 0/12 respectively in Games 3-5 of the Rangers series. The regular season numbers were better, but still not very world breaking, going 59/306, which is a 19.2% clip. The Penguins had plenty of power play opportunities to stay alive in the series, but also win some of these games that they lost. Had the Penguins power play been as dominant as it should have been given the personnel, it's very possible the Rangers could have been the ones eliminated in five games. The Penguins are fortunate to be one of the highest penalty drawing teams in the league, however if they're not going to take advantage, they're not going to win.

 

Locker cleanout should be taking place within the next couple days, and rest assured I will be there to get quotes from the players, Coach Julien, and GM Gurtowski. Please follow the official Twitter for the EHE's Pittsburgh Penguins (@PenguinsEHE) as well as the Twitter for the league itself (@EliteHockeySim)




Kyle Phillips

Team Twitter account...great idea :)

Penguins Can't Fly
Pens are ousted by Rangers in five games

• 1 teams Like this  18 days
Ian Gurtowski Okay I made a new account, lol. It's @PenguinsEHE
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Kevin Lacy

Duuuude that headline photo!

Penguins Can't Fly
Pens are ousted by Rangers in five games

• 1 teams Like this  18 days
Ian Gurtowski I felt it to be appropriate
18 days  0 teams Like this