This is tough for me. My usual ritual when the Pittsburgh Penguins make an early postseason exit is to shut down for the next day. I avoid all sports media mentioning the Pens and hockey, so ESPN is safe. I try to avoid any conversations about the loss. I just ask for a day to digest.
Well, that was impossible this year, as I live in Philly and people in my office took turns stopping by my cube to talk about the loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. Even people that don't know shit about sports or even watch hockey except for Sunday's 5-1 Flyers win.
So here I am with the first part of my review. Because I'm still bitter, this will be focusing on all the things that didn't work, mostly in the postseason.
- Marc-Andre Fleury: This pains me. Fleury helped the team win a cup and was the main reason this team didn't fall apart last season when Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin went down. He was the team MVP last season and was great for the majority of this season.
Unfortunately that greatness didn't carry over to the postseason. He was got flustered early and often against a very good Flyers offense. Granted his defense didn't help, but there were plenty of goals that were all Fleury. I immediately think back to three of the four goals in Game 6, and Talbot's shorthanded goal in Game 3.
I've always been a big supporter of Fleury and will continue to be, but I can't defend this most recent postseason performance. It was weak, and I'm terrified it might carry over into the season just like it did after he had a poor series against the Montreal Canadiens two years ago.
- The defense: What the hell happened? Like Fleury, this group came together and played amazing last season. They were one of the best units at even strength and shorthanded a year ago. The last month of this season they started sucking and they never stopped. You shouldn't lose games where you score four, four and five goals.
And it was the whole defense, not just Paul Martin! Martin had a poor year and did not live up to his $5 million/year salary. In Games 1 through 3, he had his good moments and his really bad ones. But so did every defenseman on the team. Kris Letang handed the Flyers their OT goal in Game 1 and Ben Lovejoy made one of the worst passes I've seen that led to goal in Game 2 just to name a few.
The penalty kill also got embarrassed. How does the No. 3 penalty kill unit in the league turn into crap in the playoffs. The Flyers' powerplay was good, but operating at 60 percent says a lot more about the deficiencies of the Pens.
- Two-head monster: Malkin and Crosby were outplayed by Claude Giroux and Danny Briere. Diving Danny Briere, damnit! Crosby started great scoring the opening goals in Games 1 and 2. But then he faded as the series went on. Malkin never got it going aside from Game 5. These are the two greatest players in the world, yet they have struggled the past two playoff series they played in.
In the case of Crosby, I don't think he was physically ready for playoff hockey. He started the series and games strong, but didn't do anything in the third periods. That's when stars are supposed to step up, not disappear. Crosby will be better next postseason.
Malkin was awesome this season and looked like the Malkin of the 09' playoffs and not the Malkin we saw the past two seasons. But in the playoffs we saw that immature Malkin who takes stupid penalties and gets flustered.
- Coaching: I said in previous posts that I think Dan Bylsma got out-coached by Lavy. Disco Dan didn't do a very good job of making in-game adjustments. When his team started losing control, he let it ride. When Lavy's Flyers were getting outworked and outplayed, the man called them together and lit a fire under their asses.
Now I'm not the type of person that blames coaching and reffing for losses. That being said, Bylsma should have been better, like the rest of the team. He shouldn't be fired, but he is in trouble if the team starts slow next year. I mean, Scotty Bowman was fired by the Pens. Everyone is fair game when it comes to coaching in the NHL.
The Get Up Kids - Close to Me