This is not the time for Penguins to make major changes

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Not all playoff losses are created equal.

Sure, the end result might be the same. It might leave you just as disappointed. But the path you take to get there can be very different. That path should — should! — be considered when you are picking up the pieces and trying to figure out what to do next. If you are not careful you can misread a situation or a result and do something that sets your team back and significantly hurts its chances the next season or beyond.

Sometimes you just get beat because you are not good enough or did not play well enough.

Maybe you had some injuries at the wrong time or just ran into the wrong team.

Or perhaps you played well enough to give yourself a chance to win and were simply done in by the ultimate X-Factor and great equalizer come playoff time — goaltending.

That brings us to the 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins, who for the third year in a row will not be advancing to the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after being eliminated by the New York Islanders in six games on Wednesday night.

[Related: Islanders advance to Second Round]

You will probably hear a lot of narratives in the coming days, weeks, and months as to why they lost. They were not big enough. They were not strong enough. The core players are too old. They did not have the commitment to defense that the Islanders have. They could not finish or score enough goals.

Just about all of them will be wrong.

The bottom line is this: They lost because two goalies did what goalies do come playoff time and significantly impacted the result of a series. In other words, they got goalie’d.

It will be easy to take that statement as an opportunity to pile on Tristan Jarry who had a completely miserable postseason experience. That experience was capped off by a brutal overtime gaffe in a pivotal Game 5, and a terrible Game 6 performance where he never gave his team a chance. He struggled. There is a strong argument to be made that the Penguins played well enough to win Games 1, 5, and 6 of the series, only to lose because they could not get a single save when they needed it.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

But it was not just about Jarry struggling.

It was also just as much about the other goalie in the series, New York’s Ilya Sorokin, taking a big step toward the stardom the Islanders have been hoping for. He was sensational, and it seems likely that the net is his moving forward. The combination of him and Barry Trotz is going to make the Islanders a headache to deal with every year for the foreseeable future.

When one team’s goalie struggles, and the other team’s goalie plays at an exceptional level, there is not much else that is going to happen in a series that is going to change the result.

When you look at the numbers in this series the Penguins had a significant edge in most categories, including shot attempts, shots on goal, scoring chances, expected goals, and high-danger chances. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said on Wednesday that outside of one game where they would have liked a better effort (almost certainly Game 4) they really liked their game every night in the series. And he is right to think that way, because there was nothing wrong with the way they played. They just didn’t get the result.

Now it is going to be up to the new management team of general manager Ron Hextall and president of hockey operations Brian Burke to figure out why they didn’t get the result and take the appropriate action. And that is where things are going to get interesting.

They have no loyalty to anybody in the organization. They did not win championships with any of these players or coaches. It is a fresh start and a clean slate for them to operate without emotion. Do they think this is a team that needs broken up after another early exit? Or do they see an otherwise strong team that is still a contender that simply lost a goaltending battle in a best of seven series?

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

There already seems to be something brewing as Burke and Hextall seem to have a different vision for what the team should look like when compared to the head coach. Burke has repeatedly talked about getting bigger and having a team that “doesn’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” He has always wanted teams that play a certain style and have a certain build to them. That seems to run counter to the way Sullivan wants the Penguins to play, and he even made the comment after Game 6 that they didn’t lose the series because they were not big enough.

There is also the yearly talk of whether or not it is time to break up the core of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.

But if you conclude, rightfully, that this series was won and lost in the goal crease, why would you want want — or need — to make that sort of seismic shift with the roster? For starters, Crosby, Malkin, and Letang are all still high level players. Maybe not as dominant as they were five years ago, but still upper tier players. They are still the foundation and players you can win with. They have at least a couple of more runs in them. Aside from the fact that you would almost certainly lose any trade you make with them, there are not many examples of teams that trade a player of that caliber and get better as a result of it. If you trade one of them, you are signaling that you are starting the rebuild. This is not a team that needs to do that just yet because, despite the results this postseason, it is still good enough to compete.

The supporting cast around Crosby, Malkin, and Letang is as good as it has been since the back-to-back Stanley Cups. They go four deep at center, they can roll four lines, and while the defense is not exceptional and has its flaws, it is still very good. Certainly good enough to compete if they just get some goaltending. If you can see that and still think you need to make sweeping changes you are not acting rationally, you are just making knee-jerk changes for the sake of changes.

This team does not need a teardown, or a shakeup, or a break up.

It needs goaltending first and foremost. It needs to navigate the expansion draft and figure out who goes to Seattle. And if an opportunity to improve presents itself, it should be explored. But beyond that? It should not be looking to dismantle things. It needs the rationality that does not always exist after a postseason loss to know why they did not win.

Goaltending. It will cover the flaws you do have, and it will make you think you have flaws that do not exist.

If the Penguins are not careful with how they approach this offseason they could find themselves being blinded by the latter, and fully closing their championship “window” before they need to do so.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

“That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

“It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

“It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

“We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

TAKE NOTE

The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

“We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
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TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.