The Pittsburgh Penguins are not a team that is going to beat you to death with physicality. As much as the patron next to you at the game screams, “Hit somebody!”, that doesn’t mean hitting is what this team needs to do to advance past the Columbus Blue Jackets and into the second round of the 2014 NHL Playoffs.
Rather, what the Penguins desperately need is their superstar players to finally show up. Whomever the imposters are posing as Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin aren’t very convincing. All three of those players and more have played subpar hockey in the first two games against the Blue Jackets.
Could the Penguins benefit from a more physical approach to their game? Certainly, but that is not how this team operates. Fans who want a bruising style of play need to remember what the Philadelphia Flyers repeatedly do when they get the Penguins playing their brand of hockey, and not the Pittsburgh brand of hockey.
The Penguins are a team that relies on a heavy forecheck and taking advantage of the opposition’s mistakes, something that has been missing this postseason. Schematics aside, the Penguins’ “superstars” need to actually start being players that carry the play no matter the matchup. The fact that Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards said that they didn’t feel they needed to have anyone shadow Crosby on the ice in the third period of Game 2 says it all.
If you want to compare Crosby and Malkin to some of the greats in Penguins’ history, then you would know that players like Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were always shadowed and still produced. Granted, Crosby has three assists and Malkin has two helpers in the past two games, but they are not making the opposition change their game at all. They look just like regular hockey players, and not arguably the two best players on the planet.
It isn’t just Crosby and Malkin, but players like Letang and Rob Scuderi and James Neal who are playing unbelievably below expectations. If the Penguins want to survive this series, they need more contributions and less mistakes from those key players. If the team maintains the current status quo, there is a good chance that they won’t survive against the youthful and hungry Blue Jackets.