This offseason was looking promising for the Penguins. They had just clinched first place in the MassMutual East Division and they were going to face the New York Islanders in the first round. Everybody thought that this was an easy ticket to the second round of the playoffs. As everybody is now aware, this was simply not the case. Pittsburgh was eliminated in six games. So what exactly happened to the Penguins?
The Elephant In The Room
It is incredibly easy to point the finger at the goaltending this postseason. Tristan Jarry put up a very respectable record in the regular season, starting in 38 games and winning 25. Because of this, fans were pretty amped to see quality goaltending. However, his stats weren’t all that great. Jarry put up a .909 save percentage. Just last season he had a .921 save percentage, although he started in seven less games. Regardless, Jarry showed promise in the 2019-2020 season, but failed to deliver this year.
His play in the postseason was, to put it simply, horrendous. Jarry had a 3.18 goals against average accompanied with a .888 save percentage. Visually, he did not look that confident. Every goal the Islanders scored against him seemed to break his spirit. Then, there is game five. In double overtime, goalies normally play it safe because any mistake could end the game. Jarry skated out of the blue paint to play the puck, and dished it right onto Islanders’ forward Josh Bailey’s stick. This mistake that can’t really be pinned on anybody else cost the game, clearly contributing to Pittsburgh’s elimination. So what should happen to Jarry?
Because Penguins fans aren’t happy with his performance, they want him traded. Despite this, it could be a mistake to ship Jarry out. This was only one season and his entire future shouldn’t be determinant on this alone. He didn’t have a great postseason, but again, this was his first real taste of playoff hockey. Sure, he played one game in the qualifying round last year, but he never played a full round. If Pittsburgh gives Jarry some time, he could snap out of it and return to form.
Questionable Offensive Play
The Penguins’ offense is deadly. The first line, consisting of Sidney Crosby, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel, is almost unmatched. As if the first line wasn’t good enough, the second is almost as good. Evgeni Malkin, Kasperi Kapanen and Jason Zucker shouldn’t have a single problem putting the puck in the net. Despite this elite offense, it seemed that most of the first two lines failed to show up at the postseason.
The first line struggled immensely. Crosby, arguably the best player in the NHL in the 2010s, only managed to put up two points in six games. How many total points did the entire first line accumulate in six games? Only seven. The second line did a little bit better, but not by much. In total, they gathered 11 points. When looking at these two lines, the point totals should be much, much higher considering the elite talent they have.
The third and fourth lines actually played fairly solidly. The third line, specifically Jeff Carter, showed promise. Carter led the team with four goals, proving to be a talented offensive threat. The fourth line also served their purpose. While not necessarily constructed for scoring goals, this line plays incredible defense. Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese are near-immaculate in their defensive capabilities. Brandon Tanev proved to be the grinder of the line, showing no fear as he had no problems throwing his weight around throughout the series.
So What Now?
The Penguins can only lick their wounds and look to the future of the team. There shouldn’t be any hasty decisions made because of this one series. Sure, Jarry’s play was questionable to say the least, but he is young. This was undoubtedly a learning experience for him, and he will surely use this to get better. Should he be traded? While the fans say yes, Pittsburgh should give him time.
There also shouldn’t be any massive trades regarding the core. Malkin, Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang have been under fire for years now as their play has slightly deteriorated. They are quite literally the heart and soul of the Penguins, and breaking them up could lead to a disastrous outcome for Pittsburgh. Ron Hextall, general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, shouldn’t make any hasty trades at the demands of the fans.
Give the Penguins some time. They have been able to make the playoffs for 15 consecutive seasons, and who’s to say they can’t make it 16 next year? The core is getting older, but they have proved they can still continue their elite play. Next year is a new season, rife with new opportunities. All Pittsburgh can do is work to create a brighter outcome.