So much for “Pens in 7,” eh? The same things that killed the Penguins in Games 1, 2 and 3 were the same things that cost them a Game 7 at home to try and pull off one of the hardest things to do in sports – come back from a 3-0 hole. Make it three years in a row now that the Pens haven’t made it out of the first round since winning the Cup in ’09.
But average goaltending, more shotty defense and absent superstars let the Flyers run away with a 5-1 win at home in Game 6 and end the Pens’ season 14 wins shy of what was expected of them.
Don’t expect much out of this recap…we’re probably going to put as much effort into this as the Pens put into the game yesterday. They probably did lay it all on the line – it was win or schedule their first tee time of the offseason – but like Gordon Bombay said, their best wasn’t good enough.
Claude Giroux pretty much ended this one as soon as it started; seconds after the opening faceoff he leveled Sidney Crosby near the Pens’ bench and then took a pass as the defense parted for him to take a wide open shot from the top of the circle that beat Marc-Andre Fleury short side – a shot Fleury should have been able to stop since he saw it all the way. That was 32 seconds in.
The Flyers took a 2-0 lead seven minutes before the first intermission when Scott Hartnell kamikazeed his way into the net on a power play, taking Fleury and the puck with him. The refs really should have blown the whistle as soon as Giroux unleashed a onetime on net that Fleury stopped but the extra second of play let the puck fall between Fleury’s legs and then Hartnell just dove at it.
Even if the whistle had blown, it wouldn’t have mattered because 5:25 into the second, Erik Gustafsson, you know, the rookie who was filling in for Nick Grossman, beat Fleury with a wrister from the blue line – no excuse for that one, Fleury.
After that, Dan Bylsma went nuts on the bench and it looked like he rallied his team to a comeback because shortly after we watched Bylsma yell for the first time in forever, Geno Malkin scored a power play goal. The Pens had new life…until Danny Briere scored a cheapie goal from the side of the net 30 seconds later. That was the game. half the game was still left to be played and it was already decided.
You can point your finger at whoever you want for the Pens being bounced by their rivals in the first round after losing the first three games and letting Philthy rack up a record number of power play goals in a series that didn’t even go the distance, but bottom line is this was a total team collapse.
Maybe Ray Shero didn’t do enough in the offseason or at the deadline; maybe Bylsma didn’t do enough adjusting; maybe Geno, Kris Letang and Fleury disappeared. The Pens had their chances and they blew it…as a team. This wasn’t one person’s fault. The Pens easily had more talent than the Flyers, they just didn’t capitalize on it; they let the FLyers get in their heads early and then had to try and dig themselves out of a hole but it was too late. Pens in 7? They were just lucky they didn’t get swept.
That’s it. The season’s over. Just like that. All down the drain. All we can do now is root against the Flyers and hope whoever they play next actually plays defense and torches Ilya Bryzgalov.
You might as well jump on as many wagons as possible now and tell your friends how Sid never should have come back, how Jordan Staal and Paul Martin should be traded and how Shero and Bylsma should be fired. That’s all we’ll be hearing for the next three months.