For the fourth consecutive year, the Pittsburgh Penguins are unable to reach the second round of the NHL Postseason, this time blowing a 3-1 series lead to the New York Rangers.
Regardless of how the season ended, the summer of 2022 was going to be one of the most difficult and franchise altering few months. Now, it is officially underway.
Before we get too deep into discussions about free agents, coaches, or even general managers, let’s look at the first round series and see what went right and wrong for the Penguins.
What Went Right
Sidney Crosby’s Dominance
It should go without saying that Sidney Crosby was the best player in the series, for either team.
From the drop of the puck in Game 1, you could tell he was on a mission to win the series.
Crosby knew exactly how the past three postseasons have gone and the possibilities of the upcoming offseason, he wanted more than anything to push his team over the top.
Before his upper-body injury in Game 5, Crosby was on another level hitting nine points (2-7); He tacked on another assist in Game 7 to finish the series with 10 points in six games played.
If Crosby wasn’t forced out of Game 5, it’s very likely the Penguins would’ve closed the series out then.
Not just scoring, but the Crosby line made sure the Rangers weren’t getting their share of offensive chances.
The captain suffocated the Rangers offense and held top names from scoring for a good majority of his ice time.
Crosby set himself apart and did everything he could to help the Penguins advance to the second round for the first time since 2018, but without him, the Rangers were able to capitalize.
Jake Guentzel Proving to Be Elite
It’s about time that Jake Guentzel starts getting the credit he deserves as one of the top goal scorers in the NHL.
He may not reach the heights of 60 goals in a season like Auston Matthews, but he hit 40 for the second time in his career and scored eight in seven playoff games.
The Penguins might be dispatched from the playoffs, but eight goals led the NHL Postseason after the first round.
Averaging over a goal-per-game is something special no matter the situation, but hitting that number in the playoffs is otherworldly.
Guentzel has elite goal scoring ability and he proved it by finding the back of the net in all but one of the seven games against the Rangers.
At only 27-years-old, Guentzel has a lot of career ahead of him and he has quickly become a nightmare for opposing goalies.
What Went Wrong
Third String Goalie
The Louis Domingue story could have been told for generations, but he couldn’t make important stops at the most timely of opportunities.
His play in Game 6 is chief among them as it was Domingue’s inability to make easy saves that let the Rangers back into the contest.
Not to mention the game-winning goal in Game 6 that never should have made its way past any goalie.
Domingue looked confident for a majority of the series and the fans were behind him, but it wasn’t enough to close the series when the Penguins were up 3-1.
Losing the series wasn’t all just goaltending though, there was also a major issue that plagued each of the last three games for the Pens.
Inability to Finish
In Game 5, 6, and 7, all possible elimination games, the Penguins had multi-goal leads vanish.
Could it have been taking the foot off the pedal? Would Jarry have made a difference? What about Crosby in Game 5 and 6?
It’s impossible to answer those questions, but regardless of who is in the lineup, a team has to close it out.
The Penguins were up 2-0 in both Game 5 and 6 and those leads slipped away before the start of their respective third periods.
Game 7, the Pens were just unable to maintain a lead they grabbed twice.
If you really boil it down, it’s the second straight year the Penguins looked like the better team but couldn’t close it out.
That’s not ideal for a franchise who has put extra emphasis on winning over the years, and changes are sure to come in the offseason.
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