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Molinari: Reflections On Series That Got Away From Penguins

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Pittsburgh Penguins, Tristan Jarry, NHL trade

First things first, as we look back at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ premature evacuation from the Stanley Cup playoffs

Adam Fox did some special things at both ends of the ice for the New York Rangers during the opening round. His first Norris Trophy likely won’t be his last.

Mika Zibanejad rediscovered his goal-scoring touch when his team needed it most.

And Igor Shesterkin, so leaky in the middle of Round 1, made the timely stops that allowed New York to eliminate the Penguins in seven games.

All were factors in the Rangers’ advance to the second round.

None, however, had anything close to the impact of Jacob Trouba.

For if Trouba hadn’t driven an elbow into Sidney Crosby’s head during Game 5, Shesterkin never would have had a chance to produce key saves in the two games that followed, and Artemi Panarin wouldn’t have been able to end the series with an overtime goal in Game 7.

Because there never would have been a Game 6 or 7.

Had Trouba not knocked Crosby out of the rest of Game 5 and all of Game 6, the Penguins would have locked up the series last Wednesday and would have been well-rested and healthy enough to pose a significant threat to Carolina in the second round.

These Penguins were not realistic Stanley Cup contenders — that window closed a few years ago — but they were good enough to win a round or two. And they certainly were good enough to beat the 2022 Rangers, who aren’t close to the apex of their development.

But it didn’t happen, and primary responsibility for that belongs to Trouba.

While the Penguins can’t be absolved of culpability for failing to protect multiple-goal leads in Games 5 and 6, it also shouldn’t be ignored that Crosby wasn’t on the ice for any of that.

Give Trouba this: He identified the greatest threat to his team’s survival in the series, and eliminated it, at least for a few days.

Cheap? Yep.

Dirty? Obviously.

Illegal? Well, not in the NHL.

And maybe not in some pro-wrestling companies. Maybe.

But that really doesn’t matter now.

The only thing that does is that Trouba neutralized Crosby long enough for New York to get control of the series.

And that is why a second-pairing defenseman — not a former Norris recipient, the potential Vezina winner or any other high-profile Rangers player — was the biggest difference-maker in it.

Some other thoughts on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ fifth consecutive defeat in a playoff series:

*** It’s fitting that Panarin ended the series with a power-play goal, since the Rangers scored on six of 19 chances with the extra man over those seven games. The Penguins’ penalty-kill, so good for so much of the season, was poor too much of the time during the stretch drive and Round 1.

*** The sample size is too small to suggest that Tristan Jarry purged the demons of his 2021 playoff performance with his 26-save effort in Game 7, but it was at least a good start. It was gutsy for Jarry simply to dress for the game; to give his club a legit shot at winning it was all that could reasonably have been expected.

*** Jason Zucker had a good series for a guy who finished with just two assists and a minus-3 plus/minus rating. He was fearless and selfless, and competed with the ferocity of an angry wolverine. Minus a goal or two, it was the game the Penguins were counting on him to bring during the playoffs when they acquired him from Minnesota.

*** It’s unfortunate that the Marcus Pettersson-John Marino pairing was victimized on New York’s game-tying goal late in the third period of Game 7 (Pettersson left the ice after hsi helmet was pulled off and Marino turned the puck over seconds before Zibanejad scored), because it soured a strong series by those two. Neither consistently performed to expectations during the regular season, but they were effective against New York. Until that goal, anyway.

*** Not that anyone should have needed a reminder, but Crosby and Jake Guentzel are a pretty productive tandem. They combined for 10 goals (eight by Guentzel) and 10 assists in 12-plus man-games against the Rangers, and are one piece of the Penguins’ personnel puzzle that seems unlikely to change next season.

*** Evan Rodrigues’ sensational shorthanded goal late in the second period of Game 7 will be forgotten over time, and that’s a shame. If it had stood up as the series-winner, a statue already would have been commissioned.

*** The Pittsburgh Penguins were, by almost any objective measure, the better team in the series. Trouble is, the only measure of real consequence is games-won, and New York was the first to four.

And the Rangers can thank Jacob Trouba — more than Shesterkin or Panarin or Fox or Zibanejad or anyone else — for making that possible.

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Tom Verenna
Tom Verenna
6 months ago

Exactly! The NHL cannot distance itself from the Neanderthal Hockey League. Whether there is 1 ref ( like the old days) or 2 on the ice no one sees the obvious high head shot! They want scoring but will gladly take “old time hockey “ Sid gets the same respect Mario got—None!

Tim Curtis
Tim Curtis
6 months ago

Agreed!
Despite some stellar performances by several Penguins, this team underperformed during critical moments of this series. IMO, Malkin is too inconsistent and takes too many shifts off to be granted superstar status any more! He gets paid far too much to remain on this team.
I’d love to keep Letang (for less money) and give Rust more money to stay.
This team is solid, but some younger talent with high upsides need to be added to replace aging players.

GBG
GBG
6 months ago
Reply to  Tim Curtis

Some of the Malkin money needs to find its way to Rust. Plays on the PK, PP, and the dominant line at even strength. I’m not sure how value can be measured but if there is one, he surely is high on the scale.

Chris
Chris
6 months ago

Game 1 gifted by refs as they tried again with game 7 but failed on Gs goal. Blew multiple goal leads. Accept the face that you battled for 7 games with a ton of injuries. Don’t whine over a hockey play that resulted in an injury to egg shell head Crosby.

John
John
6 months ago

You got your ass whipped by the Rangers no matter how you try to rationalize it with tears. Now get your golf clubs out bitches.

Pens8771
Pens8771
6 months ago
Reply to  John

Get your golf clubs ready, you will be needing them in about 4 games after the shit kicking the Hurricanes are going to put on your Rangers

William Maloni
William Maloni
6 months ago
Reply to  John

Hey John, a heavy underdog Pens squad took your favorite team to seven games and you were fortunate. Think about it.

Only the lame need hop on another’s site to gloat. Grew up.

Oops, impossible, you’re from NY!!

Dave Heyl
Dave Heyl
6 months ago

Dave did anyone ask Sullivan why Kapanen was never used on the PK? It seems once in the doghouse there is no exiting.
Rust 4 years @ $5 m
Heinen 3 years @ $3 m
Malkin 3 years @ $4 m
Letang 3 years @ $ 4 m
Rakell 3 years @ $ 4 m
MAF 2 years @ $3 m
We will see what happens.

Zane Gearhart
Zane Gearhart
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

Do you really believe Letang wants 3 years at 4 million? Try doubling both

Cal
Cal
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

Geez Dave, those numbers would be awesome but I don’t think they are close for the most part. Maybe Geno at 4 but most of those guys are gonna get paid.

Dave Heyl
Dave Heyl
6 months ago
Reply to  Cal

No I don’t, but I believe this is what will be offered.

Craig
Craig
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

I would only keep Geno for 2 years and as a 3rd line winger. He is not a center, he is basically a shot on the power play and a black hole.

mstar80
mstar80
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

This post….

Mark Fisher
Mark Fisher
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

This is laugh out loud funny.

Ujn Hunter
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

Wishful thinking… a team on the open market will give Rust 7 @ $6m+ for sure. He’s as good as gone. I’d like to think we could keep and sign both Heinen & ERod for pretty cheap, but they may have priced themselves out as well. No way Letang goes 3 @ $4m, he won’t do anything less than 5 @ 8m and he’ll get that from 31 teams in the league, so hopefully team 32 ponies up or it’s going to look ugly on D next year. Would love for MAF to come back to be the backup, though… Read more »

Katz is Dumb
Katz is Dumb
6 months ago
Reply to  Ujn Hunter

31 teams cannot afford Letang for 5 @ 8m…

William Maloni
William Maloni
6 months ago
Reply to  Dave Heyl

From your lips…… (I am ready for Letang to move on).

Paul
Paul
6 months ago

If we’re going to hand out medals, then Dominque should be first in line. He extended the Vezina Trophy winner to a seventh game. He won Game 1 in OT. Coming in cold. With just two games of NHL competition in the regular season. On the road. In Madison Square Garden. Take away the own screens and own goals, and his numbers are noticeably better than what Jarry put up in his appearance. One flukey goal shouldn’t detract from his contribution in the series.

Last edited 6 months ago by Paul
David
David
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Some fans might say that Dominque did extend the series to a 7th game — he let in soft goals. The series should have ended in 5, or at the most 6. In the end, he played like a 3rd string goalie. I wish him luck.

Hank
Hank
6 months ago

Stop the whining the contact was not dirty. Enough already. The better team won case closed

Jake Martin
Jake Martin
6 months ago
Reply to  Hank

My sentiments exactly. Call them the Pittsburgh Whiners. Because they’re certainly not Winners. Deal with your hangover, Pennies.

Paul
Paul
6 months ago
Reply to  Jake Martin

One Cup, 82 years. #Pathetic

Last edited 6 months ago by Paul
Jeff Young
Jeff Young
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

I do miss those “1940!” chants. “1994” doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily.

Wasnt
6 months ago
Reply to  Jake Martin

Pens dealt with and won against the Craps dam near every year but when the pu$$ie Rangers had one bad encounter they cried to anyone how’d listen…..So please stop with the whining.

Wasnt
6 months ago
Reply to  Hank

I’m sure you felt the same way when Tom Wilson ended the Rangers season last year.

Jeff
Jeff
6 months ago
Reply to  Hank

Moron. Pens controlled all statistics. The only thing they didnt control was Truba running around head hunting and the NHL allowing it. He hit Gensal, Crosby, and Matheson all in the head, going after which ever player that was dominating them at the particular time. The coach practically told him to do it.

William Maloni
William Maloni
6 months ago
Reply to  Hank

Do you mean the weakened, no PK team, with lame defense, and major, major freaky goalie issues, which undressed Shesterkin and almost won in 5, 6, or 7 games?

Hank take off your blue blinders since you clearly haven’t watched enough NHL hockey.

Nick
Nick
6 months ago
Reply to  Hank

Indeed. They have every excuse in the book. The NHL is an evil league that allows headhunters to go unpunished (lol?). Sidney Crosby has gotten the benefit of near every call since he’s been in this league but by the looks of this comment board you’d think the NHL is out to get the Penguins. It’s funny. Reality check: watch the video. Trouba was going for the puck with his STICK FIRST. That’s not a dirty hit. It’s an unfortunate collision by a player who was twisting around to avoid losing a puck. Stop making excuses for everything. I’ve seen… Read more »

Frank
Frank
6 months ago

Hopefully new ownership is looking at Burke/Hextall. Burke is a walking definition of “baggage.” And if I just paid $900 million for something that seems headed the wrong direction then I would want my GM to be my hire. They did not drop that kind of money to watch a team in decline and resulting empty seats. What would be the selling point for fans? “Hey if you liked the last four years you will love the fifth?”

Paul
Paul
6 months ago

Has anyone on the crack PHN staff asked HexBurke for their takes on the Crosby fiasco and the series as a whole? And if not, why not?

Last edited 6 months ago by Paul
Paul
Paul
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

One more thing: Did anyone ask Crosby why he passed on Game 6, by which time he had been cleared to play?

Dan Kingerski
Admin
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

That might be the worst comment on our board, including some pretty cheesy Rangers trolls.

Jason
Jason
6 months ago

Give credit where its due. Trouba won the series for them.

But on the flip side, a team that has to go 7 games to win against sub .900 goaltending isnt really worth being upset about.

Domingue was never the answer so when does Hextall get the hard question about it?

Last edited 6 months ago by Jason
Ujn Hunter
6 months ago
Reply to  Jason

Hard question about what? Why his other 2 goalies couldn’t play when they were hurt? I don’t get it. No NHL team carries 3 NHL goaltenders, and if they do it’s because management already screwed up (Dallas Stars, who were luckily saved by Bishop having to retire).

Paul
Paul
6 months ago

One Cup 82 years. #Pathetic.

Oh, and find a new arena while you’re at it. MSG is an overrated dump. I’ve played on backyard rinks better than that spithole.

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul

Awful lot of blown tires and stoppages to fix the ice.

Pittaz
Pittaz
6 months ago

The Pens have to get tougher. There is no reason someone should not have nailed Zbinajad.

Ujn Hunter
6 months ago
Reply to  Pittaz

What does toughness have to do with cheap shots? Makes no sense. Trouba isn’t “tough”, Lafreniere isn’t “tough”. They’re dirty. #TroubaSOFT

David
David
6 months ago

Malkin makes $9.5 million per year, which is more than Crosby makes. There is no way they ought to renew him for that — not even short term. I hope he is willing to sign for half of that or less — he may not get more $ any place else. They need to keep Letang and Rust.

David
David
6 months ago

Look, I admire what Louie did in Game 1. I admire how he performed in a very difficult position. But in the end, he played exactly like a 3rd string goalie. The Pens had this series won in Game 5 and in Game 6 — Sid or no Sid. Especially in Game 6 it all caught up with them.

Steven
Steven
6 months ago

One person alone doesn’t win a Stanley Cup. It just shows that the youngest team in hockey handled all the experienced players from the Penguins Pittsburgh will have to rebuild for now It was an entertaining series regardless of the outcome There’s always next year

Jack Mehoff
Jack Mehoff
6 months ago

The Pittsburgh Penguins were, by almost any objective measure, the better team in the series”

What about by goals scored? Maybe in each individual game? Who was better? Best out of 7?

Nbill
Nbill
6 months ago

If if if despite all the ifs the pens got every call throughout the series.The disallowed goal in game one,the allowed goal in game 7 the two 5 on 3 pp,the non icing calls.The misconception that Trouba hit sid in the head if if if he had a concussion he wouldn’t be back til September. Case closed window closed.

Jeff Young
Jeff Young
6 months ago
Reply to  Nbill

“non icing calls”… LOL!

Jkl
Jkl
6 months ago

Your a whiner just like the Penguins whole organization

Vrp
Vrp
6 months ago

Pitts and the Penguins need to look for sweeter grapes. All those sour ones are taking a toll on the psyche.