The Pittsburgh Penguins imploded against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals this year and you don’t have to look far when it comes to placing the blame. The obvious candidates are in there, as both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were ghosts al series long, but the blame lands elsewhere as well.
It wasn’t a singular failure — in fact the only time the Penguins did anything as a team all year long it was when they lost as one against the Bruins in the Conference Finals.
The Bruins won as a team playing as a unit. The offense was firing when it needed to and the defense was a major support to the excellent netminding of Tuukka Rask. That wasn’t the case with the Penguins who played as a team of indiviuals rather than a team trying to win a Stanley Cup. This is where the blame falls on guys like Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby as they were less leaders in the series and more phony tough guys.
It’s rare that you see a star drop his gloves and it’s even rarer to see it happen on a stage like the Conference Finals. Whenever the head of the snake is rotting away, the body follows suit and Pittsburgh wasn’t the only case of this we saw in the postseason. Back in their series against the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks nearly suffered a similar upset when captain Jonathan Toews continually lost his cool and wasn’t leading like he should have. Chicago was able to correct that mistake — Pittsburgh was not.
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin combined for absolutely zero points in the series against the Bruins and that’s because they both lost their composure. Zdeno Chara was in Crosby’s face right away in Game 1 and rather than answer with goals, Crosby answered with immature behavior that was unbecoming of not only himself but his team he was supposed to b leading. From bumping Tuukka Rask to trying to constantly start something with the much taller Chara, Crosby let his team down and their failure begins with him.
However, it doesn’t end there. Head coach Dan Bylsma failed in his task to reign in his stars and compose them, which contributed to the four game skid. Bylsma needed to take both Crosby and Malkin aside and focus them but that conversation either never happened or it failed to work which is why the Pens are where they are now.
If there’s one guy you shouldn’t blame it Tomas Vokoun who was actually the only member of this Pens team doing his job well. Save for the 6 goal game he contributed to, Vokoun did his best to hold back the Bruins attack, but he was let down by Crosby, Malkin, Bylsma and everyone else who fell into Boston’s trap of trying to play tough rather than well. Blame Vokoun all you want for allowing goals but he got no support whatsoever all series long and had it not been for him, we would have seen more lopsided games like we saw in Game 2.
So while everyone seems to have their own reasons for shouldering blame in what happened, the Penguins lost as a team — just not in the traditional sense. A team that plays as individuals loses collectively and that’s exactly what we saw in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Simply put– everything went wrong for the Pens and they have no one to blame but themselves.