Most people will look back at the 2010-11 Penguins season and think the season was a success.
Given the well documented injuries to Crosby, Malkin and other important players on this team (Staal missing the first ½ of the season) I would have to agree that finishing the regular season with one of the highest point totals in the team’s history was a true success. I don’t think even the most optimistic fans would have predicted this club could have done that, minus Crosby and Malkin for almost the entire second half of the season.
There is no doubt that the players and coaches deserve a ton of credit for that accomplishment.
Because of that, I think there is a certain “acceptance
” to the game 7 opening round loss to the Lightning. Many people will say the Penguins just didn’t have the “horses” to win this race. In the end, the more talented team won the series.
I guess, if you look at the final outcome…a tough 1-0 loss in game 7 against a team with 3 “elite” scorers, you might have to go along with that line of thinking. You might have to still consider the season -- as a whole -- successful…
…but I can’t.
To me, those are just excuses.
To me, the playoffs were a FAILURE
and that failure casts a shadow over what was done in the regular season.
Maybe if the Penguins had done what the Blackhawks did…come back from down 3 games to NONE to force overtime in game 7… against the president’s trophy winners… I would be able to accept that line of thinking. But we know that was NOT the case.
The Penguins, minus their “horses”, had a 3 games to 1 lead in the series.
THREE GAMES TO ONE.
Even if the lead may not have been indicative of how close the series was, it was still 3 games to 1.
The Penguins only needed to win ONE game to advance to round 2.
This team -- that played so well defensively, with great penalty killing and goaltending throughout the entire second half of the season… came home with the chance to wrap up the series…and laid a BIG FAT TURD at center ice of the Consol Energy Center. They lost 8-2.
In a game that could have finished the series (4-1) and put a gold seal of accomplishment on everything they had worked so hard for during the season, they played one of their WORST games of the season (if not THE WORST), right there in front of all their fans.
Make no mistake about it…IT WAS A DISASTER.
It’s hard to imagine how a team that had been such a hard working group could have come out in game 5 and played such un-inspired hockey. With so much that could have been accomplished in that one game…so much that could have been achieved with that one win. But there it was, for everybody to see.
I think the overwhelming response to that game was, OK – let’s chalk it up as a “bad game”.
That’s a response designed not to make people “nervous”. One designed to calm things down and help the team re-focus.
I don’t know what was said about that game behind closed doors…in the room. Given the positive nature of the coaches and players, I have a feeling it was very similar to what was said in the media. I have a feeling that the mood wasn’t one of panic. I have a feeling that things kind of just stayed “status quo”.
I have a feeling that was the wrong response.
Composure, focus and calm are all necessary to play your best and win. There’s no denying that.
But a sense of anger and determination to do better is necessary when you get your backside kicked around your home rink 8-2 in the most important game of the season (to that point).
Letting it be known
…to whoever is listening…whether it comes from the coaches…or more importantly the PLAYERS…that what just happened IS NOT ACCEPTABLE
…is what needed to be done.
I never got the sense that ANYBODY was angry enough about that loss
…except for maybe the fans…and even most of them were more OK with it than they should have been.
To me, the fact that we did not see a player…or the head coach…come right out and say…that game was garbage and we will not let it dictate what happens in this series... was the final “acceptance” of the situation they had refused to accept for the entire season.
It was at that point in time, that the players and the coaches failed one another.
It was at that point in time, that all the hard work they put in up until that time, was discarded.
While we should not forget the tremendous effort they put forth to finish the regular season as they did...we should also remember, as they should…that what happened in the 5th game of the series is something that should have affected their pride a lot more than it appears to have.
And maybe if it had, they would have found some way to get that last win and move on to the second round instead of packing things up and having to wait until next year.
I'd like to point out that, as we have seen via HBO's 24/7, often times what we see and read from the players in the media is not the same as what is said when the media isn't there for the sound bite.
I'm sure there was more of a response in the locker room than what the players said while on camera.
But part of why I said the things I did above, was that IF there was a response like that internally, after game 5 would have been the time to let that out. After that game would have been the time for the team to let it be known how angry they were about the loss.
Sure, it puts added pressure on players to then go out and show they really mean it.
But isn't that what was needed anyway?
I'm not disregarding what they did in games 6 and 7. They certainly played better and well enough to win in game 7...if they could have found some way to score.
I guess I just never got the feeling that losing the series was UNACCEPTABLE
And I think there is no way you can win unless you feel that way.
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