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Appreciate things with a forward focus

May 8, 2018, 9:21 AM ET [126 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Congratulations to the Washington Capitals. They were the better team in Game 6 and deserve their victory. The Penguins three-peat was ended in overtime in a Game 6 just like the last one was. At least in 2018 somebody worth a damn was the one to deliver the final dagger. It was a coinflip series and unlike last year the goaltending wasn’t the savior. Matt Murray played a great Game 6 with a .933 save percentage. Braden Holtby was just the better goaltender this year and in a tight series that is going to be the ultimate difference maker.

The last two years of Penguins hockey is all their fans could ever hope for. There were periods of dominance (2016) and then a team that got all the bounces (2017). For most fans it really doesn’t matter what the path is just as long as it happens. This year the team was better than last year’s version, but didn’t get the bounces or the goaltending. It happens. That’s the nature of the sport. Last year Alexander Ovechkin hit Fleury’s butt end instead of the net and they lost. This year Alex Chiasson scores a putrid short side goal in the deciding game. Back in 2009 Alex Ovechkin didn’t bury his breakaway. This year Evgeny Kuznetsov did.

The 2017-18 Penguins leaned heavily on Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and to a lesser extent Sidney Crosby for their regular season success. They fought the PDO demons and didn’t allow the team to be submarined out of playoff contention. Unfortunately, Geno and Phil got dinged up at the wrong time of year and didn’t have as much to give. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel were tremendous and bought time for some of the other depth players to step up it just never happened.

The best players were also probably burned out after so much hockey and the roster construction from earlier in the year. I have no problems with the Derick Brassard of Riley Sheahan trade, but those took time to develop and put a lot of strain on 87 and 71. It was less than ideal for quite a while in the regular season.

The Penguins can certainly remain competitive for championships, but it won’t happen with offseasons like the last one. You can’t waste first round resources on garbage. You can’t waste your cap space by giving term to a replacement level defenseman. Cap ceiling teams chasing titles usually don’t have the luxury of whiffing too many years in a row. Other teams are transitioning in as the favorites while the Penguins will look to hold on.

Another easy change would be to play their best skilled players. Washington was a way better team when Jakub Vrana started getting playing time. I would make the same argument for Daniel Sprong. Tom Kuhnhackl did hit a post in overtime. He also has two points in his last 22 playoff games with none coming in this playoff run. They need to stop being attracted to non-impact players. You can’t rest on past success when everybody is evolving and trying to get better.

It's not enough to be good in hockey. You need luck as well. That’s just how it is. The last two years solidified legacies and enthralled fans. That’s more than the lion’s share of people get. It is however time to get back to work on the roster so this isn’t a swan song.

Thanks for reading!
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