PITTSBURGH – If tonight’s Game 7 loss by the Pittsburgh Penguins was the the final game for some in the organization, it’s one that will ultimately be capitalized by frustration.
The Penguins fell to the New York Rangers 2-1 to end their season at the hands of a lower-seeded team. In the five seasons since they won the Stanley Cup, they’ve lost to a team in the playoffs they were supposed to beat.
After five straight disappointing performances, coach Dan Bylsma may find his job in jeopardy. The same could also be said of Penguins General Manager Ray Shero. With the lack of a deft touch with the lineup both behind the bench and in the front office, owner Mario Lemieux may be forced to change things up.
“Our goal, our ultimate goal, is to win the Stanley Cup and we haven’t done that in five seasons,” Bylsma said. “I’m 20 minutes post battling for a Game 7 and right to the bitter end. I haven’t contemplated the price that it’s going to be or anything towards the future yet.”
The Penguins might be able to avoid thinking about the future tonight, but with the offseason suddenly upon the organization, change may be on the way.
“I think there’s always questions,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “When the expectations are high and you don’t win I think that’s normal. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of questions.”
The reason why the Penguins have to face so many questions right away was Henrik Lundqvist.
All throughout the seven-game series, King Henrik was at his best as he put up a .940 save percentage and allowed three total goals in the final three games against the Penguins.
“Tonight was one of our better games,” Crosby said. “We worked hard and generated some good chances.”
The chances were there, but Lundqvist saved some of his best for the end of the game making 13 saves in the third period en route to 35 saves overall.
“He made some big saves,” Crosby said. “We were pressing late and for a good five minutes late in the third, we had some great chances. It’s a game, but we put ourselves in that position.”
While Lundqvist was the road block this year, the continued disappointment of the offense is what has hurt Pittsburgh the most. Last season, Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins stifled the Penguins holding them to two goals in a four-game sweep.
“When you lose a game and you’re not able to generate enough to score, it’s always going to be the case [for why we lost],” Bylsma said. “We had enough to go up 3-1 in the series and win three games in a row. We weren’t able to get enough in [Games] 5, 6 and we weren’t able to get enough tonight to win the game in terms of getting goals.
“They’re tough to come by, it’s tougher around the cage – we saw that. We weren’t able to get the goals we needed to win the game.”
Finding a way to break through tough defense and all-world goaltending is the job of a coach and to drive that through to the players. After being stifled by Lundqvist, Rask, Jaroslav Halak and Dwayne Roloson in the past, Penguins brass may find their solution lies with new personnel on and off the ice.