The Penguins came into the 2018 Playoffs looking for a third straight Stanley Cup Championship, but they didn’t exactly come in as the favourites. As you can imagine, back-to-back championships take a tole on a team and in this series for long periods of time the Penguins looked tired.
For the Penguins it was a tale of two players. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel flat out carried this Penguins team through the first round and to Game Six in the second round. Crosby and Guentzel combined for 19 goals while the remainder of the Penguins forwards only accounted for 17.
In the first round, they faced the Philadelphia Flyers and handled them fairly easily in a series that consisted of a lot of scoring and a lot of blowouts. Philadelphia simply wasn’t deep enough to take out the two-time defending champions, and the Penguins moved on in six games, but it probably should’ve been less.
Through the 12 games that the Penguins played in this playoffs, they were led by Sidney Crosby (9G, 12A, 21P) and Jake Guentzel (10G, 11A, 21P), while Kris Letang leads them defensively with (3G, 8A, 11P)
Matt Murray finished a mediocre Playoffs by his account with a 6-5 record, while boasting a 2.49GAA and .905SV%.
What went wrong?
It’s hard to say what exactly went wrong for the Penguins as the series against the Capitals was once again a very close one. It just seemed like as the series went on the Penguins were running out of gas. Which in their own right doesn’t seem too farfetched, the Penguins in the last two years have played A LOT of hockey. Coupled together with Braden Holtby having a stellar series and the Capitals getting timely scoring from their depth players, it was enough for the Capitals to move on.
Pittsburgh relied too much on Crosby and Guentzel, you simply cannot go deep in the playoffs without getting secondary scoring and the Penguins didn’t. Evident by the fact that they outscored the remainder of the Penguins forwards.
Is there a heartbeat?
Yes. But it’s waining.
It’s going to be hard to count out the Penguins going forward simply because their roster has accomplished so much. Having said that, we may be seeing the end of an era. Everybody around the Penguins in the East is getting better and the Lightning look to be a juggernaut in the East for some time.
One thing Pittsburgh has done well and is one of the reasons they’ve been so successful for so long is the ability to draft American college kids and turn them into great hockey players. It’s essential that teams have quality players on small contracts in the salary cap era and Pittsburgh has had that in the past.
Matt Murray, the star goaltender, is still very young and has a long career ahead of them. Just think for a second, the worst he’s ever finished at the end of the season is the second round of the playoffs.
Let’s not forget. They also still have one of the best hockey players in the world in Sidney Crosby.