The Pittsburgh Penguins headed into the 2013 Season as Stanley Cup favorites just as they have for the past few years. Also like the last few seasons, Pittsburgh was out coached, outplayed, and did not live up to their full expectations. Pittsburgh had a few bumps along the way to the Eastern Conference Finals but ultimately prevailed over coming adversity and looked to be the favorites heading into their match up with the Boston Bruins.
Prior to the playoffs, at the trade deadline, Pittsburgh loaded up by making a big splash by trading for star players Jarome Iginla and Brendan Morrow to provide leadership and additional scoring. Penguins also acquired Douglas Murray to add toughness to their blueline, and Jussi Jokinen as a late acquisition for additional scoring and a faceoff specialist.
Pittsburgh headed into the match up with Boston as the hottest offensive team of the playoffs with 47 goals in just 11 games (4.27 goals per game) and had given up just 28 goals in that time span (2.55 goals allowed per game). Since starting Game 5 of the Quarterfinals, Tomas Vokoun alone only allowed 2 goals per game (14 in 7 games)
Penguins Need To Limit The Stretch Pass
Stretch passes are great in creating opportunities for breakaways and going for the "homerun" and creating a great scoring chance. The problem is though that you run the risk of causing an icing call. Doing so does not allow for line changes and the same unit has to stay on while the other team is free to change theirs up. This will in turn cause players to fatigue much quicker while the opposition has fresh legs on the ice more often. The Penguins do not need to eliminate the stretch pass completely, but they need to limit them and use an rush attack by skating up ice through the neutral and opposing zone and put the defense on its heels.
Power(less) Power Play
Despite having one of the strongest Penalty Kill(PK) units, Pittsburgh's Power Play (PP) for the past few seasons has many times been nonexistent. There is no excuse to go 0-15 in four games when you have players like; Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Jarome Iginla, Chris Kunitz, etc. The PP is an issue the Penguins need to address in the off season and improve upon next year to have any further success than they did this year.
Lack of Defense
The Penguins system is designed for high scoring. Which is really great when you have players as mentioned up above. That being said, it still rings true that "defense wins championships". That is what happened when the Penguins ran into the Bruins. Boston shutdown Pittsburgh highly potent offense with its tough defense and outstanding goaltending, minimizing the Penguins scoring chances with terrific shot blocking and not allowing any pressure in their own zone. Pittsburgh had difficulty clearing the puck out of their end against Boston and as a result, the Bruins would make the Penguins pay for the mistakes by scoring goals.
Marc Andre Fleury's Career In Pittsburgh Likely Over
Tomas Vokoun has played great as the starting goaltender during the playoffs. Other than Game 2 when he was pulled (though a lot of that had to do with the defense hanging out to dry) He has done his part to keep the Penguins in each game to win. After Vokoun was pulled in Game 2, Fleury was called on for relief, marking his first appearance in the playoffs since the Penguins Game 4 loss to the New York Islanders in the Quarterfinals. Fleury actually started strong, even igniting what would be the only goal of the game for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fleury went behind the net and made a nice pass which set up Brandon Sutter scoring a goal. Though the spark was short lived as Fleury let in the first shot he face when Brad Marchand fired the puck over his shoulder and into the net. Fleury would go on to let two more goals get by him, and made good(bad) on his part of letting in his normal 3 goals in a game. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009, Marc Andre Fleury has struggled in the playoffs and has not regained his form he had during the Penguins run to the Stanley Cup in 2008 and 2009. Tomas Vokoun is more than likely not part of the Penguins future, but is definitely going to be a component for them in the present. Meanwhile the Penguins may look to part ways with Fleury by trading him or letting him go after his contract is up and look to build around one of the younger goaltending prospects in the system for the future.
Dan Bylsma Remains Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins...For Now
While many wonder if Bylsma will be behind the bench to coach much longer, it was not to long ago that Bylsma helped turn around a struggling Penguins team in 2009 and lead them into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league en-route to the franchise's 3rd Stanley Cup title. Since then, Bylsma has struggled to get his team to play up to its ability in the playoffs, twice being eliminated in the first round. For those that are calling for Bylsma to be given the axe (even I am beginning to think the Penguins should part ways with him) I have it on good authority Dan is not going anywhere, anytime soon. I was told personally that Mario Lemieux is good friends with Bylsma and plans to keep him around. With that said however, there may come a time when Mario realizes he has to cut the cord and do what is best for the team and its franchise if Bylsma continues to be bounced early in the playoffs by not fixing or addressing any of the team's weaknesses.
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