The Pittsburgh Penguins season was questionable at best, the team reaching certain milestones and rewarding fans with a possible cup run, but also falling short of expectations. It seems as if the Pens were overshadowed the entirety of the season, the league’s interest usually falling on something else happening at the time. They remained in a consistent position of good enough to not be ridiculed, but bad enough to not be worshipped. Even during the playoffs, all of the degradation and discontent was directed at the Tampa Bay Lightning, allowing the Penguins to fly relatively under the radar.
During the regular season, the Penguins went 44-26-12, reaching 100 points and 9th in the league. Within their division, they placed 3rd, 3 points behind the Islanders and 4 behind the Capitals. Their stats were good, they placed in the top third of the league, so why was this season so incredibly mediocre? Multiple factors played in, from inconsistency throughout the season to a few players on the roster who were shaky at best.
Starting from the crease, Matt Murray had a pretty good season. When the Pens had scoring difficulties late in the season, he was able to keep most of the pucks out of the net. Another positive was Casey DeSmith, who stepped in when Murray was injured and proved himself to be a solid backup. Murray posted a 29-14-6 record, with a .919 SV% and 2.69 GAA. DeSmith followed up with 15-11-5, a .916 SV%, and 2.75 GAA.
On the defensive line, the Penguins finally saw a top defender in Kris Letang, who had a rough 17-18 season and was losing popularity in the fanbase. He rocketed back up to his rightful place and found the back of the net 16 times this season. On the contrary, some defensemen like Jack Johnson fell very short of expectations, finishing out the season with a -4 +/-, 41 penalty minutes, and 13 points (with a grand total of 1 goal). Not to mention, he had 82 games played. Fans can look forward to a couple more years with him on the ice for 20 minutes a night.
One high note of the season was Evgeni Malkin reaching 1,000 career points, tallying 72 points over the course of the season. Unfortunately, he came dead last in +/-, finishing the season with a grand total of… -25, yikes. Sidney Crosby led the team in points (100) and assists (65) but had a less than glorious postseason. In 4 games he mustered up 6 shots and one assist, leaving him with one total point to carry away from 4 games. Jake Guentzel managed to net 40 goals, leading the Pens in that category.
The playoffs were, to put it kindly, a disaster. Being swept by the Islanders was one thing, but having a total of 6 goals in the entire series (half of which were scored in 1 game) was another. Robin Lehner may have played like a god, but in the regular season, the Penguins were 2-1-1 against the team, which proved they had the capability to defeat them on the ice. Sure, playoffs are a completely different season, but being swept and forced into a first round exit is always a stab in the back.
This coming offseason, the Penguins will have to make some changes if they want to remain in the competitive circle. Maybe not the drastic changes some fans are calling for, but enough to have a substantial impact on the performance of the team. Should they remain at the current level of play they are at or even drop down in skill level, they will most likely continue down the sloping path to eventually not making the playoffs at all for the first time since the ‘05-’06 season. What fans and players want to see is a surge in output and another year as the reigning champions of the league, but only time will tell if the Penguins will be able to reach that milestone in the near future and regain their confidence as individuals and a team.
Photo retrieved from puckprose.com
Article by Tess Garchinsky (@flyersnbuckets)