For those of you living under a rock or simply just not NHL fans, the playoffs started a week or so ago. Well as a Penguin fan, I hope there is more room because I may join you under that rock. I wouldn't be doing my civic duty as a Pittsburgh fan or blogger if I didn't at least make one comment, so here goes. The Penguins play during this first round series embarrasses me.
How a team that was primed for playoff hockey can go from the odds-on favorites to one game away from the first tee at Oakmont is beyond me. They have had the offensive firepower, they had the special teams play, they had the defense, and they had the goal tending to back it all up. I just don't get it. Above all else, I'm tired of even trying to figure it out.
Some people put the blame on the hype machine, saying that the Pens were the media darlings and the NHL poster team so their run in the second half of the season was contrived. I think that is a ridiculous idea and won't even entertain the notion that there is any kind of "favoritism" being played when it comes to any of it. Sure, Bettman is no angel when it comes to running the league, marketing, or being human. But logistically there is no way to set anything like that up so FORGET THAT!
Some people are blaming Crosby (besides the typical Cindy, diving, whining, etc. comments) saying that his return to the ice has thrown a wrench into a well balanced team chemistry and changed the way they play their game. While I can see some merit in that logic, I highly doubt having the games best all around player on the ice hurts them. Not every player is 100% on their game all the time and they I just think they picked a bad time to start slumping.
But what I will pin the blame on is the Flyers. They get under the Pens skin. They always have and always will. These two teams hate each other and it shows each and every time they play. I remember going to games when I was a kid at the old Igloo and seeing fight upon fight take place on the ice. It is simply the norm when Philly and Pittsburgh play. Now is no different. In fact, it might even be worse since we had one of our most beloved players (by fans and teammates alike) in Max Talbot take a job in the Orange & White during the offseason. Plus, we all remember the Jaromir Jagr saga with his return to the NHL. But for a hockey fan that enjoys playoff time, this series has been a joke.
Are the Flyers a better team this year...Yes! I said it at the beginning of the year that I thought they would be back in the Finals. They have the talent, the drive, and the leadership to get there. Their goal tending is shaky at times but their play in front of the net is second to none so they can get away with it. They have the right personnel to make opposing teams scramble for an answer and the speed to make them pay for it. Their one of the best in the league at getting their opponents off balance, taking stupid penalties, and making them suffer the consequences. Were the Penguins a good match for this kind of play? That answer was ABSOLUTELY! But now they are being made to look the fools.
What the Flyers have managed to do to a Pens team that was, for the most part, disciplined all season is just sickening. And for the Pens to bow down to that level of taking runs at players, cheap shots, blind side hits, and poor sportsmanship is just plain sad (it's also what is expected of a Philly team). Undisciplined hockey, in today's NHL, gets you one thing...an early exit from the playoffs. We have seen it happen time and time again, year after year. Unless the Penguins can regroup, refocus, and play their game, it's over (unfortunately I think it's already too late).
As for the ridiculousness of Game 3, I don't really know what to say that hasn't already been said. I usually try to defend my team and my players but frankly, there is no point here. Asham was wrong for the cross check to the face of Schenn (regardless if he is a A-hole or not) and even more so for punching him while he was on the ice. Neal was wrong for the hits he threw at Coturier and Giroux (although Giroux played his up a bit since the contact was minimal). Adams was wrong for the instigation penalty he took. And I hate to actually say this but, bottom line, Crosby is just all around asking for it, plain and simple.
I don't know if his brain became scrambled eggs with all the concussions or not but he needs remember how to be a leader. Be the bigger man. The brushing of the glove was frustration boiling over and although we can't go back and change what happened, we can move on going forward. Get the team under control. That is your job when wearing the Captain's C. You are supposed to be not only the leader of the team but a pinnacle of the NHL. They (the media) all call you the "Face of the NHL" for a reason. You need to act like it. It's at the point now where I don't care if it ends up a sweep or not. Stop the theatrics, stop the media grandstanding, get a hold of your team, and start playing Penguin hockey again.
That's all I have to say about that. Frankly I've said too much.