The Pittsburgh Penguins completed a collapse in the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night. New York rallied to win three straight games after falling behind three games to one. The loss leaves a ton of question marks for the Pens heading into the offseason, but one question that can be answered is why did the Penguins lose the series?
The answer lies within the star power that makes the Penguins such a prominent team. The only problem was most of their star players didn’t show up in this series.
Sidney Crosby is at the top of the list, and deservedly so. From watching his play against New York, he was not the same player who led the league in points this season. Crosby’s play was mediocre at best, and his frustration was evident in the latter stages of the series.
Crosby recorded zero points in five of the seven games against the Rangers, and that’s simply not good enough from a guy who needs to produce for his team to succeed. The Rangers had the same problem with star player Rick Nash, but other players stepped up to score key goals for New York. That didn’t happen for Pittsburgh once Crosby went cold.
The Penguin captain is the obvious scapegoat in the situation, but he’s definitely not the only one to blame. Chris Kunitz and James Neal also underperformed for most of the series, leaving the Penguins with limited scoring options. Evgeni Malkin was the only Penguins star to meet expectations, scoring three goals and adding four assists. Malkin also played strong even when he wasn’t scoring, but the same cannot be said about the rest of the Penguins’ top players. Crosby, Kunitz and Neal combined to score a whopping 98 goals in the regular season, but they combined for just three goals and six assists in the second round.
Jussi Jokinen certainly stepped up for the Pens with his four goals, but it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for the lack of production from Crosby, Kunitz and Neal. The Penguins as a whole did not execute on their opportunities. Henrik Lundqvist was nothing short of brilliant in goal for New York, but Pittsburgh had to find a way to score a huge goal that could’ve changed the outcome of the series.
In the final three games, all of which were Penguin defeats, the team combined for 105 shots and only scored one goal each game. Lundqvist is as good as it gets, but Pittsburgh needed to get more than one goal per game in the final three. You simply can’t score one goal and expect to win.
When you think of the Penguins, you think of extremely high skill and talent. These handful of players are why the Pens have that reputation, but they failed to back it up in the second round and it ended their season in heartbreaking fashion.