Our weekly reader-reaction question for Pittsburgh sports fans is “U mad, bro?”
Well, the Penguins just blew a 3-1 lead to the Montreal Canadiens in Game 3 of their best-of-five preliminary round series.
The franchise is now on the verge of losing its third straight playoff series. This time, it’s looking like the Penguins will be sent packing by a team that ranked 24th in the NHL entering this revamped playoff format.
So, what do you think? Do you think Penguins fans might be a little mad right now?
And, trust me, these are the kind ones.
OK, Yuri, start us off!
“That was a pathetic and embarrassing (expletive) show. Up 3-1 and then lose 4-3 to a bad team who they made look like the early ’80s Oilers!”
I don’t know, Yuri. You might not be giving them enough credit.
The way the Penguins are making them look right now, it feels like Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Jeff Petry are better than those bums Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey ever were.
On their best days.
Randy puts the bullseye on the star players.
“Pens big time players need to play big in big time games. They simply haven’t lately.”
Exactly, Randy. This is the 13th consecutive playoff game in which the Penguins have failed to break the three-goal plateau. Take a look at some of these numbers in the series so far.
• Kris Letang has 94 shifts in this series and no points.
• Evgeni Malkin has one point in the series.
• Jake Guentzel’s only goal on 11 shots so far is an empty-netter.
• Sidney Crosby scored in the first two games. But in 19:35 of ice time Wednesday, he managed just two shots on goal, was a minus-1, and lost 15 of 23 faceoffs.
The stars haven’t been stars often enough.
Tyler has an ominous feeling about where things are going.
“The Pens shouldn’t have to be scratching and clawing every night to beat the 24th best team in the playoffs. I think this is just what they are now. Happened last year (against the New York Islanders). Happening this year. Reality can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes.”
First step? Grasping reality.
We don’t have a time machine that is going to take us back to 2009. Or even 2016 or 2017.
Second step? Dealing with the inevitable depression.
Tyler, I swallowed that pill. And it’s making me gag.
Mike is going after goaltender Matt Murray.
“For as good as Murray was in the 3rd period on Monday, that’s how bad he was tonight. I have never seen a 6’4” goalie play like he was 4’6.”
That’s been the book on Murray since the 2017 Finals against Nashville ended, Mike.
He used to be a goalie who played even bigger than his frame. He took away every shot. Every angle. Every look.
Now, at times he crouches low and makes himself look far more compact than he is.
During this series, at times I feel as if he has gotten too far into his own net. And the Canadiens have seen that, too. They’ve tried that bad angle shot Petry pulled off on a few occasions during this series.
Wednesday, Petry sniped it for the game winner.
— NHL (@NHL) August 6, 2020
As you can see there, Murray wasn’t terribly deep that time. He got unlucky on the bounce off his mask and into the goal. But scouting-wise, he had invited that shot over the previous two games.
All that said, I don’t think Murray is the reason they are on the verge of elimination. Yes, Montreal’s Carey Price has been better in the other net. But it’s not like I watched Game 1 or 3 and thought to myself, “You know what, if Tristan Jarry is in the net, they win that game!”
The Penguins are down 2-1 because they don’t score enough anymore. Pure and simple.
Joe wants to know if Mike Sullivan is about to find himself on the hot seat.
“Is it crazy to ask? If they lose this series, is Sully’s job in jeopardy? With this amount of talent to lose to this team it’s unreal.”
It’s not crazy, Joe, because a lot of good hockey coaches have been fired for a lot less than getting swept by the Islanders and potentially losing to the 24th-ranked team in hockey.
But coming off the pandemic pause and with Sullivan’s track record, my bet is he’ll survive into the next season before any such move would be made.
By comparison, after the 2009 Stanley Cup, Dan Bylsma won one playoff series against the Senators in 2010. He then lost three series in a row against the Canadiens (2010), Lightning (2011), and Flyers (2012).
That’s exactly where Sullivan would be if they lose to the Canadiens here. After the 2017 Stanley Cup, his team beat the Flyers to open the 2018 playoffs, then lost to the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders (2019 opening round), and may lose to the Canadiens.
Does he get two more years beyond that like Bylsma did? I don’t know. Sullivan seems like more of a gruff guy than Bylsma was. Maybe the players will “tune him out” quicker.
Robbie wants to talk coaching, too.
“Sully is ‘Disco’ (Dan Bylsma) 2.0.”
See the above response, Robbie. Disco music got really popular, really fast. Then it faded really quickly.
That analogy held with Bylsma. I’m fearing it’s becoming applicable to Sullivan, too.
Ben is upset Patrick Marleau keeps getting ice time.
“Why is Marleau getting played over Evan Rodrigues? If we can see he is no longer effective and does zero to contribute, why can’t the coaches see that? Or does Sully just feel he’s right and won’t remove him from the lineup?”
Yeah. That’s a little of it right there. Bylsma did some of that “I’d rather lose than be proven wrong” stuff by the end of his run, too.
I also think they are deferring to a veteran. And I think they are trying to justify Marleau’s unnecessary acquisition.
Wednesday, Marleau did a nice job as the net-front guy screening Price on Jason Zucker’s power play goal.
Yet, he was a minus-3 in less than 11 minutes of ice time. Marleau shouldn’t be playing.
Justin has a stunning realization.
“Maybe they just aren’t that good anymore, ya know?”
Yup. I do know.
And I think the rest of North America is figuring that out now, too.
Frank touched on something I wanted to address.
“Pittsburgh plays like a team that thinks they are better than what they are, which in turn leads to losses to inferior opponents.”
In between the second and third periods, Teddy Blueger was the NBC intermission interview. In referencing the blown 3-1 lead, he said something to the effect of “we let off the accelerator a little bit” or “we let up a little bit.”
I didn’t catch it live, but whatever he said, he’s 100% right. And that’s 100% frightening.
Because the Penguins played like a team that was up 6-1 with two minutes left. Not up 3-1 with 34 minutes left.
John wraps it up for us.
“The window is closed.”
Well, maybe that’s not a bad thing, John. Because for the amount of time Penguins shooters have hit the glass so far in this series, maybe they’ll break it open again.
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