What a fall it’s been for the Penguins. Just two years removed from back-to-back Stanley Cups, they’ve now been bounced in four games by the Islanders in Round 1. Their big guns were completely shut down by the Islanders stellar defense, with Sidney Crosby (one point), Phil Kessel (two) and Evgeni Malkin (three) failing to get any consistent offense going. Meanwhile, on the other end, the Islanders were able to target Pittsburgh’s biggest weakness with ease: their rush defense. Malkin said so himself.
That may sound like hyperbole by Malkin after a tough, season-ending loss, but it’s actually spot on. Josh Bailey’s overtime game-winner in Game 1? A rebound after a 2-on-1.
The tying goal by Anthony Beauvillier and eventual game-winner by Jordan Eberle in Game 2? Both were 2-on-1’s. Same goes for the Game 3 winner by Brock Nelson and the opening tally by Eberle in Game 4. All in all, the Pens gave up five goals off the rush, tied with the Sharks for most so far in the playoffs. That’s a lot, but it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. The Penguins gave up more odd-man rushes than anyone in the NHL last season. This was the focus of our pre-series scouting report on how to take advantage of the Penguins and the Islanders took full advantage.
There’s already a lot of rumbling from fans and media alike suggesting the Penguins should blow it up. To me, that’s just an overreaction to a bad loss, but there’s no doubt something has to change in Pittsburgh. Just how much change GM Jim Rutherford has planned will be one of the interesting stories of the offseason.