The Pittsburgh Penguins came up short in the playoffs again, falling in five games to the New York Rangers while scoring just eight goals total.
And you know what another playoff disappointment for the Penguins means — no shortage of ideas on how to fix them.
While the jobs of the coach and GM appear safe, at least one prominent NHL insider — Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman — believes it’s time for the franchise to “think about” trading Evgeni Malkin.
“If you can get two or three pieces including a guy that can play with (Sidney) Crosby, don’t you have to think about it?” Friedman said Monday on Sportnet radio. “At what point do you say, yeah, we won the Stanley Cup, but that was six years ago? These two guys together make $18.2 million, and we keep losing in the playoffs because we don’t have enough support pieces.”
Remember that the Penguins also have defenseman Kris Letang signed to a hefty contract. In fact, Crosby, Malkin and Letang are each top-25 cap hits in the NHL.
Now, for the record, the Penguins say they have “no interest” in breaking up Crosby and Malkin, so all this could be a complete non-starter.
‘Tis that time of the season, though.
Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang says he’s feeling better after suffering a season-ending concussion in late March and, what’s more, is fully confident he’ll be ready to play by the start of next season.
From the Tribune-Review:
The 28-year-old defenseman has suffered multiple concussions, a stroke and has a history of migraine headaches. However, he hasn’t considered having his career cut short by head injuries.
“No concern,” he said. “I’m on my way to coming back. I’m just going through the protocol. I’ll be back on the ice. I missed only a bunch of games once, when I got (a concussion) in Montreal (in 2011). I never missed time for a concussion after that. I’m not really scared.”
Letang said he will be ready for next season.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Oh yeah. Right from training camp.”
Letang missed the Pens’ final six games of the regular season with the concussion, and all five playoff games in an opening-round loss to the Rangers. Prior to getting hurt he was having a banner campaign — a career-high 54 points in 69 games — and was averaging more than 25 minutes a night.
Needless to say, his injury was a crucial blow to the Penguins (along with Olli Maatta and Pascal Dupuis, both of whom also suffered season-ending injuries.) This is part of the reason why Pittsburgh is reportedly giving head coach Mike Johnston and GM Jim Rutherford another kick at the can — CEO David Morehouse said he’s “never given any consideration” to replacing the pair, citing the team’s man games lost to injury as a big reason why it slumped down the stretch and won just a single playoff game before getting eliminated.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers battled fiercely for five games. Each contest was determined by just one goal and the final two went to overtime.
But at the end of the day, the Penguins could only win once and the Rangers officially eliminated them with a 2-1 victory tonight.
Carl Hagelin scored the overtime marker:
This is the sixth straight year Pittsburgh couldn’t get it done in the playoffs. This time around though, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t the story. He did all that could be expected of him in this series, posting a 2.12 GAA and .927 save percentage in five contests.
Instead fingers will likely be pointed at Evgeni Malkin, who fired six shots on goal Friday night but still finished the series without a single point. The Penguins lacked offensive depth in this series as well as Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist accounted for half of Pittsburgh’s eight goals.
At the same time, it would be wrong to ignore the fact that the Penguins were missing defensemen Kris Letang, Christian Ehrhoff, and Olli Maatta as well as forwards Pascal Dupuis and Beau Bennett due to injuries. That’s a lot of talent to be stuck on the sidelines.
Still, another Penguins season that began with Stanley Cup aspirations is over while the Presidents’ Trophy winning Rangers are moving forward. The Rangers fell in the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. They’re one step closer to getting back there now.
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