Time for Penguins to Reassess Lineup

Time for Penguins to Reassess Lineup
Michael Pityk

The Pittsburgh Penguins choked again. They took an early first period lead over the New York Rangers and were dominating play. The blueshirts only got their first shot on goal 11 minutes and 35 seconds into the first period and the Pens shut down New York’s anemic power play.

However, the Penguins’ bad habits came back as the game went on. Awful penalties were taken, the puck was given away and they were physically beaten down. The Penguins were out hit 42-28, gave away the puck six times and gave the Rangers three power plays.

If New York had a working power play, the Penguins penalty kill would not be nearly has highly regarded. The issue isn’t the number of penalties they have taken as the Rangers matched them in Game 4. It’s the kind penalties they take.

Steve Downie didn’t need to interfere with Ryan McDonagh, Blake Comeau didn’t need to crash the net through Keith Yandle and Ian Cole shouldn’t have boarded Martin St. Louis.

NHL officiating as a whole has been poor this season, but the Penguins have been a team victimized by it. Many of their penalties they actually commit, but they are often called for things that aren’t real. However, the lack of mental discipline has exacerbated the problem and the Pens are paying the price for it.

Night after night it’s the same undisciplined and sloppy play.

Marc-Andre Fleury deserves better from his team. Without his stellar play (and the numbers don’t completely show it) the Penguins would not have made the Stanley Cup playoffs at all. What makes matters worse is that any given game going to overtime is almost a guaranteed loss. In the last five seasons, the Pens have not won a playoff overtime game at the Consol Energy Center.

Home ice advantage is supposed to be as it sounds—an advantage. As the years have passed, countless individuals have commented or wrote about how the Consol Center doesn’t provide any advantage. Whether that is the actual building or the fans that are in it remains to be seen.

The Penguins are in actual trouble. Obviously in the series being down 3-1, but beyond that their organization is failing, their fans are disgusted and ownership has done nothing to fix any of these problems.

As you watch any given Penguins game, you can see the energy coming off the players, the flow of the game and which team carries the momentum. This can be said of every NHL game, but with Pittsburgh it’s different.

Throughout the entire season, the results are predictable. There are no major momentum shifts in the Penguins’ favor and there’s a time in every game where the future results become obvious. In previous seasons the Penguins would sometimes prove doubters wrong.

Not this year. Less than five minutes after the Rangers scored the equalizing goal, it was apparent that the Penguins were going to lose.

It’s hard for casual fans to mentally get into a game, get loud at the arena or even watch a contest when you know what the end result will be. This is even more frustrating for passionate fans who have continually been let down by the Pens.

The current game sell-out streak is over 375 games in a row, but it’s because the front office has pushed to maintain it. They’ve lowered ticket, food, beverage and merchandise prices to keep fans coming. The Penguins are losing the city of Pittsburgh. They used to have a monopoly of the city’s sports fans, but with the Pirates finally playing at a high level, why should people go to the Pens games? It’s a matter of choice and many fans would rather pay to go to events where they were excited and witnessed some unbelievable plays and did not know what was going to happen.

After the Penguins loss last night, it seems like the 2014-15 season is all but over. It’s time for real sweeping changes across the organization, from players themselves all the way up to management.

If ownership doesn’t see that after this season and that their experiment failed, there is no hope for this franchise. They will have wasted the prime of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Fleury’s careers.

Michael Pityk

Michael plans to eventually work in the NHL in some capacity. He spends his free time analyzing hockey and studying advanced metrics.

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