Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rotten in Pittsburgh

Let's get this straight: there is nothing rotten in Pittsburgh. The Penguins do not need an overhaul in their locker room. Their team is solid, talented, hard-working and well put together and led by the greatest (active) hockey player in the world. It is not time to pull out the roster and start moving players around like they're pawns on a great chess board.

If Pittsburgh is looking for an explanation as to their demise at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, the 8th seeded team in the East, what they need is an attitude check, not a casting call. These were the things that killed this team's chances:


This is not an arrogant team, but let's face it, who would have thought that Montreal was going to be much of a challenge for the defending Cup champs? You can't blame fans, sportscasters, coaches, management and teams themselves from feeling that this was a big, fat given. Thinking this way is part of the reason why this team fell. The ensuing confusion as to why Montreal wasn't falling, along with the tough media scrutiny that came with it, seemed to just escalate the confusion as well as the frustration level.


This is probably the real factor in the series which caused everything to collapse. When things weren't happening the way that the Pens expected it to, they gave in to their frustration, with many bad displays of unsportsmanlike behavior. Sidney wasn't the only victim of this frustration, but as the Captain of the team, it is his responsibility to keep his frustration to himself and then punch the hell out of something when he gets home. Keeping your poise in those moments is one of the things that will make a real difference in your team's will to win. A Captain inspires his followers and leads by example.

Sidney Crosby has showed incredible leadership and incredible skill. He is also very mature for his age. But he needs to be the master of his emotions in the future. More effort on this aspect of his game is needed, not another Captain.


When things didn't go right for Pittsburgh, they did not adapt their game. Their game style remained the same and even when it became quite clear that certain things weren't going to work, such as the countless attempts to jam the puck in under Halak who stood there like a solid wood post, things didn't change. Good teams find a way to win. They can switch up their games whenever they need to and that's how you steal momentum away. Montreal learned how to do this and adapted themselves to the styles of Washington and Pittsburgh, learning how to discourage them and where to get them where they were weak. They were opportunistic and their defense was water tight.

Even when things did go right for Pittsburgh in their wins, they didn't repeat the pattern. Their 2-0 victory had both goals coming in off the point and redirected through traffic. Why this didn't keep happening in the final games is beyond my comprehension.

So don't clear out the locker room. These guys need to stay. Crosby, Malkin and Staal make this team tick. It's not the who of this series that was problematic, but the what they were thinking. Humility, calm and adaptability are the things that the management should work on with this team.

This team will hoist the Cup again. And it will likely not be very long until this happens.

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