The end of the era?  The penguins are at a crossroads after the game is out

The end of the era? The penguins are at a crossroads after the game is out

For the better part of two decades, Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin, and Chris Letang served as the foundation for building the Pittsburgh Penguins three Stanley Cup champions.

For the better part of the year, the three have realized that the 2021-22 season could be their last ride together.

And for the better part of the month, Crosby did his best to stop it. Can’t anymore. Nor can anyone else. Not after a painful playoff loss to the New York Rangers, when the 3-1 series lead ended with the Penguins at the wrong end of the handshake line at raucous Madison Square Garden after the Rangers made one stunning comeback after another.

The latter was a 4-3 overtime win in Game 7 which was Pittsburgh’s fourth consecutive game during a time of year that Crosby, Malkin, and Letang helped determine.

“They’re all different,” said Crosby, who missed part of Game 5 and all of Game 6 after being shot in the head by Jacob Tropa of New York. “It’s kind of hard to go through them all. I think if we put them all together, I think this one, maybe I feel like we deserve if I were to rank them all.”

Crosby is well aware that this may have been the last time Malkin and Letang are among those to wear the penguin jacket. Both are free players this summer, as is forward Brian Rost, whose dynamic play helped the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. Keeping all three can be very costly.

“I think we knew that in the playoffs,” Crosby said. “But I guess you’re trying not to really think about it. I hope we can have a good tour.”

Somehow they did. Pittsburgh advanced in six out of seven games during the series, including two-goal advantages in both Game 5 and Game 6 and a one-goal advantage with less than six minutes to go in regulation at the end.

“It’s disappointing,” said Penguins striker Jake Guentzel, who has scored eight goals during the streak. “We were there. We put ourselves in a good place to go 3-1.”

New York’s persistent ability to pounce on penguin bugs helped. The last of these, Danton Heinen’s spin and the ensuing penalty shoot-out that gave the Rangers power in overtime, set up a sequence that ultimately ended with the winner of Artemi Panarin.

In a way, the series has been a symbol of a vastly uneven season. A brave start in which players like Evan Rodriguez put in an amazing performance while Crosby and Malkin (among others) recovered from injuries. Then it ran for two months as it was arguably the best team in the league, followed by a limp to a finish that included three mostly tepid losses against Rangers.

It’s one of the reasons New York entered the series as the extravagant favourite. While Crosby stressed that his team can’t just flip the switch and start, that’s exactly what the Penguins did in taking three out of four to start the series.

Then all of a sudden, the momentum, the momentum, and the promising postseason in the hockey-equivalent minute in New York fizzled out. An unofficial chapter of a possible seismic circulation looms on the horizon.

“A lot of people didn’t expect us to get this far, let alone be in the playoffs,” Crosby said. “We had high expectations. We’ve fought through a lot. Many men contributed. I think for all of these reasons we thought we were still playing.”

busy summer

The potential for Malkin and Letang’s return is due to the money. Malkin turns 36 years old in July. Letang turned 35 a month ago. Both are still strong players. Malkin finished with 20 goals despite missing nearly half of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Letang finished fifth in the league in the icy average time and had the best 58 assists of his career while consistently playing in a more disciplined style. Fenway Sports Group – which bought the team from Ron Burkle and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux last fall – has pledged to keep spending up to the salary cap. However, holding the franchise tokens will likely require at least one of them to take on a bit of a discount, and Montreal is expected to make a serious bid for Letang to end his career in his hometown.

net value

Tristan Jarry rebounded from a rocky playoff series against the Islanders last spring to become his second All-Star team. He fractured his foot in mid-April, forcing him out of the squad and when Casey DeSmith left the first game against the Rangers with a primary injury, Pittsburgh turned to striker Louis Domingue. While Domingo has played brilliantly if not spectacularly in more than five games, the team’s decision not to boost depth on the trade deadline may have ended up costing the Penguins an opportunity going forward.

2022-05-16 23:44:12

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