TORONTO — The Pittsburgh Penguins were the highest-seeded team in the Qualifying Round. They are now the highest seed out of the Qualifying Round. The Penguins played with energy, but overly tight and conservative. The teams were scoreless, and the Penguins managed just 21 shots in the first 60 minutes of hockey.
Montreal won, 2-0 with an empty netter.
And they lost despite a sparkler from goalie Tristan Jarry, who started in place of Matt Murray.
Not even sweeping line changes could save the Penguins from their own demise. Swept in four games last season, they were bounced in three of four this season.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan put Patric Hornqvist on Evgeni Malkin’s line, and Bryan Rust up with Sidney Crosby. He also re-inserted Jared McCann into the lineup and put Conor Sheary on the third line right wing, beside McCann.
It was not the successul type of stupid, futile gesture as in Animal House. It was more just futile, like the million ripoffs which followed.
The series was about the third stick in the battle. Defined, that means tight puck support and help. That means when the puck is on the wall, two guys with a third waiting should be battling. The Penguins didn’t have it.
Really, never did.
Take that last sentence and extrapolate whatever you choose. When a team is 1-7 in its last two playoff series, that mirror should get a good look, and lots of previously safe people, or staples of the organization should answer tough questions.