Saturday’s home loss to the Blue Jackets was one that I’m willing to bet most Penguins fans will be quick to forget about.
It’s not so much that the team lost, but rather then manner in which they fell apart that was so alarming.
Up 3-1 in the second, Pittsburgh again gave up another short-handed goal that cut their lead to 3-2, before allowing the Jackets to tie things up on the power play late in the third, eventually losing the game in double-overtime.
There’s so much to dissect that I’m not even sure where to begin, however I’ll start where these kinds of talks usually end: Marc-Andre Fleury.
Though I’m sure there are still a fair share of Pens fans who are trying to pin this loss on Flower, had it not been for him this game would have never even reached over time. Fleury was excellent, and stood on his head several time to keep Pittsburgh in it despite receiving virtually no support from his defense.
Thought by many to be the team’s weak link come playoffs, MAF has been one of the few Pittsburgh stars who looks like he came to play. This loss is not on him.
So if we can’t take the easy route and blame Fleury, who takes the fall? The short answer is, well, just about everyone else.
And it starts with coaching. After having Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin run the point on the power-play in game one, Bylsma actually made an adjustment, something his main detractors claim he never does.
He swapped out Martin for Letang, but still kept Malkin up high, and once again it came back to bite him, as a Geno turnover was what led to Columbus’s aforementioned shortie.
Four forwards on a power play when protecting a 3-1 lead in the playoffs is an unbelivebaly idiotic move for Bylsma to make, especially when you’ve already seen the problems it can give you going the other way.
And when it ends up costing you not one but two short-handed goals, you’ve got a real problem on your hands.
Brandon Sutter and Brian Gibbons have been solid, but when you are forced to rely on a pair like that for offense, you have some serious problems.
Which brings us to everyone else.
Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world, but has been a non-factor for huge stretches in the first two games. He has six turnovers in two games. Columbus as a team only has five.
Malkin’s struggles have been well-documented already, and with Malkin usually goes the play of his line mates. Malkin, James Neal, and Jussi Jokinen have combined for just one even strength goal so far. The trio finished a combined -4 in Saturday’s loss.
However the biggest disaster in all of this would have to be Letang and Rob Scuderi, who saw themselves get pushed around all night, especially on the game winning goal in overtime.
It will never happen, but if I’m Bylsma, I’m sitting Scuderi for Robert Bortuzzo in the third game. Bortuzzo draws a ton of penalties and is great at protecting a lead late in games.
Not to mention his physicality, something the Penguins have been desperately lacking the first two games.
I mean, it can’t get any worse, right?
Pittsburgh is still my pick to win the series, but the more I watch these games, the more they remind me of last years first-round matchup with the Islanders.
The Penguins were able to win that series because they didn’t give it away to New York. It’s going to take the same thing to get past Columbus.