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Wakeup Call: Worst Pittsburgh collapse?

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PHILADELPHIA — Brief and to the Point …

>> My Monday column points the finger squarely at the Penguins’ defense.

Not the team defense. I’m talking the defensemen.

http://triblive.com/mobile/1070444-81/penguins-core-team-kovacevic-staal-crosby-defense-dejan-letang-malkin

>> I offer you, o voracious hockey readership, this simple question: Was this the worst collapse we’ve seen in the city’s history?

If you think that’s an overstatement or cheap shot, I’d challenge you to pore through 126 years of the city’s professional sports and identify a greater or even equal collapse.

The Pirates lost two of seven World Series, but the first came without shame in the inaugural Series in 1903, the other to a team that hit like the ’27 Yankees. Because they were the ’27 Yankees. The Barry Bonds-led division winners fell short three times, but they hardly collapsed … well, except for a certain ninth inning.

The Steelers have lost two Super Bowls but were underdogs in both. Those ’76 Steelers, still a consensus choice for their finest overall team, went down in the AFC championship to Oakland, but they’d lost Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier to injury.

Only the ’93 Penguins compare, really, but even they reached Game 7 of the second round and were without Kevin Stevens or a healthy Mario Lemieux.

Not exactly like being without Paul Martin.

Who else you got?

The 1981 Pitt football team with Dan Marino is one.

I can’t get into Pitt basketball collapses for this topic because Jamie Dixon’s never made a Final Four. Hard to call it an upset like when Duke or North Carolina goes down.

>> Erik Bedard, 0-4 with a 2.64 ERA, told reporters back home, “The runs will come.”

He might be a better pitcher than prognosticator.

>> I’ll make my weekly appearance on TribLIVE Radio today at noon.

The expected frustration of the fan base, I’m sure, will lead to some whopper suggestions. Maybe even a couple ridiculous calls for Malkin to be traded.

Comments

  1. Nate says:

    Minor correction, Dejan: Mario played in Game 7 of ’93 series vs. the Islanders (of course, he rung one off the pipe on a breakaway), though he did miss a few games earlier in the series, so point taken.

  2. keith says:

    Mario played in that Isles series, no?

  3. Amber says:

    Hey Dejan,

    Really tough day today with the Pens lost. Twitter of course turned all GM with everyone predicting who is going and who is staying. My question to you is after Madden and Rossi made statements about one of the “billboard guys” maybe getting traded this season and then Rossi believed it to be either Orpik or Tanger, what would Pens EXPECT to get in return?

    Also, I know Rossi also said that Dan Bylsma’s job is secure and I never believed it was in jeoparody but a lot of fans are calling for his job after completely loving the guy after game 5 with his composure and his speech to fire up fans/players. I understand that the last three years have been horrible losses in playoffs but each year has been a team depleted by injuries (except this year) but even this playoff series we had Sid back for around 15 games before he jumped into the series. Do you think that Dan having a full team from beginning to end would fare much better for a long playoff run come 2013?

    I hope to still see you on twitter and continue conversations with you because I truly respect that you respond to the good and the bad and remain objective. I have loved reading your stuff this year and cannot wait for more this summer as we prepare for an offseason full of the unknown!

  4. pghboyinca says:

    It would be diffcult for the Pirates of the last 20 years to collapse sine they are expected to suck each and every year. How about the Steelers losing the AFC championshp game at home to the San Diego Chargers who were a complete joke and then getting blown out by 40 points ithe Super Bowl?

    The first New England chanpiuonshiop game when New England had no offense and scored on a blocked punt, punt return, and some other quirkly play was a colossal collapse as well.

    Not to dismiss this ridiculous excuse for a playoff performance but it is hardly head and shoulders above the others, and in term sof sheer disappointment at least we had 10 days to digest the odor of this loss. The Atalata playoff loss where the Bucs made an error and then started walking people where one ot got you to the series……

  5. Cari says:

    A collapse must involve both a high starting point and a swift, humiliating fall. I think you could count this as the biggest collapse in Pittsburgh sports history because of the regular season success and the extremely high expectations. The Penguins appeared to be built for a championship, and they were favored to win the whole thing. They didn’t lose in the finals, or even in the second round. They only won *two games* and then they got eliminated in the first round.

    I also think what happened during the first three games makes this more of a collapse than it would have been if we had traded victories with the Flyers. The Pens got destroyed on defense for three brutal games, and they had no answer until Game 4. The two victories were nice, but at that point the meltdowns of the first 3 games had made it nearly impossible to win.

    Of course Pittsburgh has seen many horrendous postseasons over the years, but the gap between potential and postseason performance has probably never been this wide.

  6. Dan I. says:

    Well yes, especially during the Crosby era. Last year, no Crosby or… Cooke! They finally get healthy and the goaltending, if you want to call it that, went on hiatus. One could blame the defense, mostly if they didn’t want to blame just the goaltending. Game 6 was a shambles and wasn’t even the worst game. Thanks for your great writing, insight and passion for the Pens!

  7. Scott says:

    I’m not sure where you’re coming from with this biggest collapse stuff, Dejan. I know many will disagree, but a 5 seed beating a 4 seed – especially this particular 5 seed beating this particular 4 seed – barely even qualifies as an upset. This series was always a flip of the coin, given the regular season results between the clubs, which most Pittsburghers inexplicably wrote off as irrelevant before the series began.

    Yes, this was a Stanley Cup-caliber roster, but they had the misfortune of being matched up in the first round against the only Eastern Conference team actually capable of beating them. That’s a 103-point team over there, with possibly the best player in the world right now.

    If the Pens had just won two more games and gotten the #1 seed, they probably would have avoided the Flyers and reached the Stanley Cup finals. I really don’t think anybody else would have beaten them.

    The ’93 Pens were a much bigger collapse, because that team was full of Hall of Famers and lost to a team that had no business being on the same ice as them. Any number of Cowher-coached Steelers teams could also be included in the conversation. Or this year’s Steelers, even, which almost secured a bye and instead lost to that hideous Denver team in the first round.

  8. Derek says:

    I’d point at the coaches first. Not advocating they fire Bylsma, but I would shake up his assistants, for sure. Inexcusable special teams. Regular season success means nothing after going less than 50% on the PK. Too few in-game adjustments, couldn’t get the match-ups he wanted (or just played into Lavy’s game), etc. Defense sucked, to be sure, but I wasn’t too fond of the coaching this series….or last series for that matter.

  9. NYRinChina says:

    It might have been a surprising result, but the biggest collapse in Pittsburgh sports history? I don’t think so. First of all, the Penguins were not a good defensive team and the Flyers were the one team in the East that could best exploit that. Plus, the Flyers had plenty of success against the Penguins in the regular season, especially in Pittsburgh. The Flyers were quite comfortable with this matchup, as the results indicate. The Penguins are obviously very talented, but I think people were premature in making them out to be the overwhelming favorite to win the Cup.

  10. Creighton Rabs says:

    I still think the 1993 collapse was worse than this year’s first round exit.

    With or without Mario, the 1993 team sported the best record in the NHL by 10 points. Even without Mario, you still had Jaromir Jagr, Kevin Stevens, Rick Tocchet, and Ron Francis.

    After the Pens won the first round of the playoffs to Jersey, they lose in 7 to the Islanders in the Prince of Wales Conference semis (1992-93 was the last season for the POW conference; the NHL, in their infinite wisdom, went to the Eastern/Western conference format the following season).

    Presuming the Campbell Conference playoffs ended they way they did, you would’ve had a Stanley Cup final of LA (Gretzky) vs Pittsburgh (Mario). How epic do you think that would’ve been if the two greatest players of all-time (or at least my generation) squared off for the Stanley Cup?

  11. @SteelersNasty says:

    He said Mario wasn’t HEALTHY you IDOTS!

  12. Dave J says:

    The Penguins were eliminated by a team only a handful of points below them in the standings. Top to bottom, the Flyers are as deep as the Penguins in every facet of the game. A 4 seed losing to a 5 seed is a mild upset. Vancouver losing to LA is a collapse.

  13. Reading says:

    1938 Pirates of “Homer in the Gloamin’” fame lost the NL Pennant in a late season collapse.

  14. Cari says:

    Now that the column has been published — when you said on twitter that you were going to write about the day our fate was sealed, I had a feeling it would be the day we signed Martin and Michalek. Our attempt at upgrading the defense obviously failed.

    But I still have the same question I’ve been thinking about during the playoffs — are the current defensemen really incapable of being better? Can’t the coaches work with them on playing better defense? Can’t they work on their conditioning and get faster and stronger?

    If we can trade the contracts, great — but I’m still somewhat baffled by how bad they have been. I guess I feel like defense is different from offense — no matter how hard he works, Adams is never going to shoot the puck as well as Sidney Crobsy. But surely defensemen can work on getting in the right place at the right time — it seems like conditioning and practice should lead to improvement in those areas. So I’m wondering how much is coaching and/or the motivation of the players, and how much is just that they suck and nothing can be done.

  15. NYRinChina says:

    What about those Steelers losses at home in AFC title games?

  16. Cari says:

    By the way (sorry this is like my third comment already) I thought the column was exactly right. The core, including Marc-Andre Fleury, should stay. They weren’t fantastic, but they are not the problem at all. Fleury crumbled because the defense was atrocious, not because he’s a bad goaltender. I believe in him completely. Defense is the entire problem here. I’m quite heartened to hear that Shero believes one or more can be moved.

  17. Deb says:

    I am still trying to understand Malkin’s hit on Sid. It was a HARD, jarring hit.

    and it is really indefensible. Sid was virtually standing still and Geno came at him with speed and knocked him flying. Players always make a bid deal about how they “can control checks” and ‘pull up’ so I ask: how does Geno make that hit on Sid “accidentally”? Impossible.

    Despite what you reported DK, I don’t think Sid was the same player after Geno’s hit. What is your view behind the scenes? Did he seem injured?

    DK: Sid had a bit of a limp with his left leg. That’s why I made more of the leg thing. He’s otherwise fine. Asked him everyday.

  18. CDBrewer says:

    Gotta agree with Scott. I thought the Pens would win this series, but I also recognized that the Flyers were the worst possible match-up for the Pens.
    I am a Ranger fan, and I think the Pens would have drilled us – Rangers don’t have the speed to exploit the Pens defensive flaws, but for some reason have enough to trip up the Flyers. But that is a long way off (um, Ottawa), and not the point…
    Anyway, I think there were 6 teams in the Eastern Conference the Pens matched up REALLY well with, and one that was problematic. They drew the short straw.

    Anyway, the Flyers are a quality team, and while this is a disappointment, I think the Pirates’ loss to the Reds in ’90 (as big favorites) and the Steelers lose to the Chargers were more collapses.
    I still don’t know how the Chargers won that game.

    Not to switch gears but…Will the Pirates be this bad offensively ALL YEAR?
    I was at the Mariner game on Saturday, and I gotta say, that lineup that got Perfecto’ed has more pop and length than the Bucs.

  19. Gereme says:

    Dejan, I am just wondering why you used the term “rightfully ignored” by calls for Bylsma to be held accountable for THREE collapses? Especially when you question him on multiple occasions (no PK adjustment, took so long to change D personnel, etc.)
    – Am I a minority in saying that all three times the pens have been eliminated recently, they looked absolutely EXHAUSTED? Perhaps it is a trend, suggesting Bylsma’s up-tempo system is just too much to ask of his players for 82+ games and they simply run out of gas by the playoffs? He has them running sprints in a marathon.
    – why is it okay to absolutely get out and refuse to adjust when a team clearly has you figured out? Who cares about his regular season success, which isn’t even enough for division or conference titles (which are meaningless) Boudreau at least accomplished those.
    – Everyone is saying how Giroux outplayed Malkin and Crosby, it’s TRUE. But, why was Bylsma so willing to let it happen? Malkin had Cotourier glued to his hip, while Giroux roamed freely, torching the Pens left and right. Is it Bylsma’s arrogance that makes him refuse to shadow another teams best player like other teams do to ours?

  20. JW says:

    1975 was a worse Penguins collapse. (The Islanders were still five years from being a great team.)

  21. Gereme says:

    P.S. Please don’t take this as just a heat of the moment, irrational thinking following a loss. It is something that has stood out here and there from time to time, but eventually goes away thanks to a solid roster to make things better. Bylsma did a great job taking the chains off of Therrien’s team, but he took over a defensively sound team and his up tempo system only needed to be sustained over a 4 month period not 9 months. I totally agree that the Defense needs BLOWN UP. However, this same 7 D are the ones who won 2-1 games last year. That tells me they are capable, but the coach just failed to make it happen and adjust when other teams figured them out.

  22. charlie cahplan says:

    1. You are correct Pens lost because of defense. Plane and simple. That is on Shero.

    Gonchar/Letang
    Leopold/Hamhuis
    Gill/Scuderi

    $21 million

    or

    Orpik/Letang
    Martin/Michelek
    Niskanen/DE

    $19 million

    I know its not quite that simple but you get my point.

    2. 1993 is tough to take but I think that team was “slightly overrated” in a cup chase sense especially in the last game with Stevens hurt, Lemieux not 100%, losing Bourque and Errey (no grit up front after Tocchet) and Barraso playing bad.

    Although if I remember correctly Healy stole the show in Game 7, the Pens had something like 58 minutes in their zone (ok maybe not quite that much).

    I stand by my thoughts that this series isnt a collapse. The Pens simply were not that good on defense, at all. They had no chance to win the cup with that roster.

    Biggest collapse in my mind:
    1994 AFC championship game – the coaches decided to keep running off tackle with big backs against a speedy Chargers defense instead of running right at them (the week before against the stout but slow browns this strategy worked. The Chargers had this played out from the first snap. But they kept doing it over and over. Was awful. The only time in my life I thought I could seriously do a better job). Then the Chargers never gave their passing game any respect and they couldnt crack them other than between the 20′s yards. Add in Deon Figures biting on a play action like he would have actually tackled Natrone Means anyways. They blew that game on every level.

  23. Reading says:

    The 1938 Pirates had a 7-game lead in the National League on September 1st and did not win the NL Pennant. Easily the biggest collapse in city history.

  24. Brian says:

    I know you threw out the Dixon Pitt teams for worst collapse, but last year’s squad deserves consideration… a #1 seed, gone the first weekend. And the way the tournament played out, it’s easy to imagine that they could have made the championship game.

    DK: Won’t argue that. It’s just hard getting past the notion that they could never be favored to win it all until they make Final Four at least once.

  25. Cullen says:

    1976 Steelers can’t be considered a collapse. Although it is arguably the greatest team in the history of the greatest franchise, injuries hurt the AFC championship. Franco and Rocky were mentioned above but those teams were built mainly around defense, and Lambert didn’t play. Missing possibly the best MLB (except maybe Butkus) who anchored that defense can’t constitute a collapse – that was just an unlucky break.

  26. Cocktailsfor2 says:

    @Reading (#13): You are my hero.

  27. JAL says:

    JAL’s Memories Are Made Of This Morning Links

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    http://gobuccos.com/pittsburgh-pirate-news/

    PIRATE BLOGS

    4—Pirates Prospects

    Bedard Battles, but Runs not Coming for Bucs

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2012/04/bedard-battles-but-runs-not-coming-for-bucs.html

  28. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    20 Behind the Steel Curtain

    Report: Mike Wallace Told ‘Some’ in Steelers Organization He Won’t Sign Until He Has To

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/4/22/2966705/report-mike-wallace-told-some-in-steelers-organization-he-wont-sign

    Money(Foot)ball: Are There Wide Receiver Bargains in the NFL Draft?

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/4/22/2965208/money-foot-ball-are-there-wide-receiver-bargains-in-the-nfl-draft

    What the Passing of Friday’s RFA Deadline Means to Mike Wallace and the Steelers

    http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com/2012/4/21/2964564/steelers-mike-wallace-contract-2012-nfl-draft

    21 Steelers Depot

    - Second round Draft Day Steals

    http://www.steelersdepot.com/2012/04/second-round-draft-day-steals/

    22 Steelers Gab

    Harrison of the New Steelers Throwbacks – “Send Them Back”

    http://www.steelersgab.com/2012/04/19/harrison-of-the-new-steelers-throwbacks-send-em-back/

  29. JAL says:

    Pitt Blogs

    23 Pitt Blather

    An Unknown for the O-Line

    http://www.pittblather.com/2012/04/20/an-unknown-for-the-o-line/

    24 Cardiac Hill

    Pitt Football Recruiting: Shakir Soto Commits To Paul Chryst For 2013

    http://www.cardiachill.com/2012/4/22/2965755/shakir-soto-pitt-football-recruiting-pittsburgh-panthers-steven-adams-paul-chryst-2013

    WVU Blogs

    25 Metro News

    Blue Downs Gold In WVU Spring Game

    http://www.wvmetronews.com/wvu.cfm?func=displayfullstory&storyid=52294

    26 WV Illustrated

    WVU Offensive Line Satisfied with Overall Spring Performance

    http://www.wvillustrated.com/story/17650911/wvu-offensive-line-satisfied-with-overall-spring-performance

  30. JAL says:

    PENGUIN BLOGS

    27 Pensburgh

    Pens season ends, lose game 6 5-1 to Flyers

    http://www.pensburgh.com/2012/4/22/2967137/pens-season-ends-lose-game-6-5-1-to-flyers

    Soccer(football)

    28 Sky Sports

    United held in thriller

    http://www.skysports.com/football/match_report/0,19764,11065_3495105,00.html

    29 World Soccer Daily

    World Soccer Daily: Stories you need to read, April 20th 2012

    http://www.worldsoccer.com/247/world-soccer-daily-10-stories-you-need-to-read-20th-april-2012

    29 Daily Telegraph

    Brisbane Roar win A-League grand final for second year running after controversial penalty decides match

    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/brisbane-roar-win-a-league-grand-final-for-second-year-running-after-controversial-penalty-decides-match/story-e6frexni-1226335698085

  31. JAL says:

    Title song Memories Are Made of This—Dean Martin, 1955. Through the mid- 1950s a few rock songs made the charts but songs like this dominated them. Dean Martin’s version knocked Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Sixteen tons from the number 1 slot. Sixteen Tons was at the top from November 26, 1955 to January 13 1956. Martin took the top spot on January 14 and stayed until The Platters The Great Pretender took over on February 18. Song written by Terry Gilkyson, Richard Dehr, and Frank Miller who back Dean on the song. Gilkyson’s daughter Eliza is a contemporary singer/songwriter, his son Tony player guitar with the band X, and his daughter is a VP with Warner Brothers Records. The song was also adopted by refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

  32. IC Heavy says:

    I have to say that I am disappointed with this Pens series loss, but not as disappointed as I was after the Steelers lost to Tim Tebow and the Broncos in the playoffs. The Pens and Flyers matched up well and the Flyers had the Pens number all season. When the Pens pulled the Flyers as their first round opponent I was nervous and could see the series going either way. Much like you DK I thought this team was destined for the Stanley Cup. I guess I am a better commenter than a prognosticator!

  33. scapper says:

    This doesn’t compare to ’93 or even ’96 (the semi-finals against Florida) because this loss just doesn’t have much shock value. It’s very disappointing after the regular season they had, but the loss doesn’t feel that surprising, considering it was Philly and the style in which the Pens won so many of their games.

    But in ’93 and ’96…those were just crushing losses and both fall under the category of “collapse,” as I’m pretty sure they were up 3-2 in each series and they certainly had game 7 home games. Oh, and they were vastly superior to each team! That just wasn’t the case this year.

  34. LeeFoo says:

    “Erik Bedard, 0-4 with a 2.64 ERA, told reporters back home, “The runs will come.”

    He might be a better pitcher than prognosticator.”

    And our fearless columnist KNOWS hitting….:) :) :) :)

    .

  35. bman says:

    Am I surprised the Pens lost and surprised that they fell behind 3-0? Absolutely. But consider this a collapse? No way. They lost to a team just behind them in the standings (one that even had more non-shootout wins than they did). It’s a disappointing loss, nothing more.

  36. LeeFoo says:

    I know I am not a huge hockey fan, but the Pens only finished 5 pts ahead of the Flyers. How can that be called a collapse?

    ,

  37. LeeFoo says:

    bman…our posts passed in the nethersphere….I agree with you.

    .

  38. Jandy says:

    I’m not finding the Monday column. Your link isn’t working…and I can’t find it. grrr!

    I am frustrated. This is a frustrating loss, not a collapse. It’s also shameful. That the Flyers were able to exploit our weakness so easily.

    Collapse? No. But that still doesn’t take the sting out of it :(

  39. Milo Hamilton says:

    January 1, 2011.

    The day a dynasty was derailed.

  40. Milo Hamilton says:

    A post from Creighton ! My mom’s from Creighton.

  41. JT says:

    Dejan,

    I just don’t see this as the historical collapse that some people do. Was this not the 4 vs 5 match up? Usually the toughest opening round series? To say historical collapse to me, is not giving the Flyers enough credit, they were the better team. Maybe this Penguins team was historically overrated by the media. Yea its dissapointing that the Pens lost in the 1st round, but when the 2 best teams in the east meet in round one, a Stanley cup contender is going to lose in the 1st round, and thats what happened.

    Don’t think this team needs blown up, but some retooling is needed. I think the Pens bottom six forwards lacked some speed, some skill, and some youth. Need to have a few guys in the bottom six that are hungrier. Look at the impact that the Flyers rookies had. Some of the Pens role players just seem stagnant..time for fresh blood.

    Defense, I think you nailed with your column Dejan. I dont know if Martin and Michalek are tradable, I believe Martin has a No Trade Clause, but the Pens need to try. I’m sure Martin realizes too, that the Pens aren’t a good fit for him. But I think the only takers will be a team that needs to hit the salary cap floor, and I’m not sure if Martin would want to go there. Z in the end I think will be back next year..don’t think he was as bad as Martin and showed last year he could fit in this system.

    One thing I would like to see is another Right handed winger added to this team. Especially for up front on the PP. What makes the Flyers PP so dangerous is all the players are on their forehand. Every player is a threat for a quick shot, and they can all move the puck very quickly, because they are all catching passes on the forehand. If the Pens aren’t going to switch and run the PP from the left side (which is a little mind boggling to me that they havent done) they need a right handed forward to play up front.

    Certainly it is a dissapointment to lose in the first round, but I say this core gets one more shot. Then once contracts start expiring it will be time to start making tough decisions.

  42. Stuart says:

    Given expectations about winning the cup THE worst. They appeared to be waiting for the other team to acknowledge how good they were, but in the end, just didn’t show up. Surprisingly high-level discussion, except for the guy who couldn’t spell “idiot”. Now we can focus on the Bucs. Any guesses as to how soon the phrase “pop gun offense” appears?
    Stuart

  43. Jandy says:

    Thanks JAL, I appreciate it. I’m definitely a bit slow this morning. Still limping from the loss, I guess.
    Regarding the D ~ I think it was Leah who had it right. Martin and Michalek are fine defensemen, in the correct system. Obviously, our system doesn’t fit well wtith them, Martin in particular. I really don’t mind Michalek’s play. He seems to fit a bit better than Martin.
    As always, it will be interesting to see how Shero addresses our needs. I feel Depres and Strait earned their way to a camp with eyes wide open. They sure handled the selves well in the few games they played. I look forward to seeing more of them next season.

  44. Dave G in Liberty Township, OH says:

    The ’93 Pens loss hurt much more than this one. They lost to a team that was inferior in every aspect— except on the scoreboard.

    I remember the feel of the crowd in that game seven… almost arrogant, how everybody thought that there was no way that they were ever going to lose that game. Until that dagger of a David Volek goal in overtime. The Civic Arena had never gone from so raucous to so quiet in a heartbeat, stunned with a collective disbelief. I still remember the gapes on the faces of the fans.

  45. gregenstein says:

    The loss to Montreal 2 years ago was worse for me. They had a 3-2 series lead and were playing a clearly inferior team. This year, they were playing the 2nd or 3rd best team in the conference. Not a lot of shame in that loss other than the complete lack of defense they played. Maybe that’s what you meant.

    Fact is, they needed to find a way to hold that 3-0 lead in Game 1, but they lost it. Perhaps that offside goal now looms larger…it that offside is called, it’s not likely that game even goes into OT.

  46. JohnS says:

    I don’t find this series loss as bad as the Steelers losing to Denver. The Pens really set the tone by blowing the three goal lead in game one. I am always surprised by the pass Orpick is given by fans. He really wins the race to the puck often slowing to let the oponent get there first and then trying to hit and take the puck away.

  47. Corey says:

    Realistically, the Pens & Flyers were the #2 and #3 teams in the east. I know they weren’t seeded 2 & 3, but as far as points, they were. This was hardly a 1993 Islanders team we were watching. I think it is disappointing that the games weren’t more competitive, but I don’t think this is the biggest collapse in Pens history, let alone the City’s.

    Regarding Martin and Michalek, I remember the day that they were signed. I remember thinking how strange it was that I’d never noticed Martin in a single Devils game considering how long he’d been there and how much the signing was being hyped. I then went out to some Devils online forums to see what their reaction was, and it ranged from “good riddance” to “oh well, no big deal”. I was a little worried about him from that point, but I had faith that Shero saw something and that he’d blend with the Pens system. I guess the Devils fans were right about this one.

    Michalek is a little more disappointing to me. When we signed him, Phoenix was trying to keep him. He was one of the guys they leaned on in their defense-first system. I really thought that we had just signed one of those rock solid defenders whose value was really seen in the playoffs. I’m still not sure what happened. Were his flaws hidden by a total team defensive effort in Phoenix and it made him look better? Or was he actually that good in PHO and he’s just not a fit for Byslma’s sytsem?

  48. mjp1542 says:

    Where is the column? No link from above, and not listed on the sports front.

  49. Dave says:

    How is it a collapse? The Flyers owned the Pens during the regular season as well. Face it the one team that matched up well against us is the team we faced and were beaten by in the 1st round.

  50. Milo Hamilton says:

    This is exactly why I call it the 82 game exhibition schedule.

  51. JB says:

    I can’t say this is a collapse from a win/loss perspective, the Flyers are a very good team that matched up with us well. But I would say it was a collapse from a quality of play perspective.

    I have never seen a team so careless with the puck in their own end, so pathetic on the penalty kill, take so many unneccesary/costly penalties (kunitz, malkin, cooke to name a few), and allow so many soft goals.

    From Dejan’s twitter: Only 2 goalies in NHL history gave up more goals in 6 games than MAF (although its worth noting that his defense left him out to dry on many occasions.)

    And I heard on Sportscenter last night that the 95 Red Wings (i think) were the last team to have a 40% PP success rate in a series. The Flyers were over 50%.

    It almost defies logic.

  52. BenderHeel says:

    Let’s not excuse Letang’s mostly bad play during this series, and Brooks Orpik’s worse play. Sure, they weren’t as bad as Martin and Michalek, but let’s call a spade a spade.

    Letang was over-played and was really bad in his own end. Orpik couldn’t seem to cover anyone in the defensive zone – how many goals were scored by guys near Orpik who he simply didn’t bother moving over a few feet to cover? That was the worst series of games I have ever seen Orpik play.

    There’s plenty enough blame to go around though. And the Flyers also deserve a lot of credit. They are a very good team that played smart, disciplined and fundamentally sound. And they took advantage of the many, many opportunities that the Penguins gave them. Finally, they had a better strategy and outcoached the Pens.

  53. Milo Hamilton says:

    @BenderHeel

    I don’t think you’ll have to worry about Orpeck much longer. I think he’ll be one of the 1st to go. They’re going to have to sort out that locker room and If my guess is right, I think he comes down on the wrong side of the divide. And he won’t be the only one.

  54. Clay Moore says:

    Despite the devastating collapse, I have found my own silver lining. And what a surprise it was. I never used to notice when Tyler Kennedy was on the ice. He never really made a huge impact.

    After the trade deadline and Kennedy’s return from injury, he seemed to step up his game drastically. He became a high energy player, always trying to make something happen. Unfortunately, much like Malkin, he also stick handles himself into trouble and is often unable to finish. Though I previously hoped to see Kennedy traded, I think that, with continued improvement, he could become more of an offensive weapon. If it doesn’t pan out, I hope Pens fans can at least respect and appreciate his turnaround this season. 3 goals in 6 playoff games isn’t bad for someone with 11 goals on the season.

    On a side note: Sid was obviously not his dominant self in this series. And he took some rough hits. Not taking anything away from the Flyers’ tough defensive game against the Pens’ stars, but do you think there is any chance Crosby was playing with “symptoms?” I’m not placing any blame or looking for excuses. I also realize Crosby’s play wasn’t half bad. But (if this were the case) in a series like this, how much would emotion factor into his decision to speak up?

  55. Jandy says:

    I hate to see Brooksie be in that position. I still think he’s not 100% from his surgery.

  56. Milo Hamilton says:

    @Jandy

    Is he going to wait until September to have it this year ?

  57. Dejan Kovacevic says:

    Guys, in light of the real collapse today being our new website, I’ve published in its entirety my Monday column in a new blog post right here.

  58. Scott says:

    I’m not sure what to make of Martin and Michalek. They were very good last season – not just average, but very good. And then total collapse this season. Maybe I’m the only one holding out hope they can find their game again and get right.

    Even so, I’d definitely be aggressive in trying to trade them, if only to free up cap space to sign Staal and roster space for Despres, Strait and Morrow. I do believe Shero will find buyers for one or both, given the lack of defense around the league. Michalek at $4 million a year is still a better deal than most GMs will find for defensemen on the open market, so somebody would figure to jump on that.

  59. BladedWedge says:

    Or are we overstating how good the Pens actually were? On paper, they were monsters. On the ice, they scuffled after their long winning streak. The 2 losses to the Isles might not have just been a blip on the radar. The on-ice dynamic changed when 87 came back. Odd. They seemed to play as a group of individuals rather than a team.

    DK: That’s possible, but not many teams in sports history can claim the top two players in a given league and everything else the Penguins had.

  60. LeeFoo says:

    DK……new blog….right where?
    No link
    ..

  61. LeeFoo says:

    Test

  62. LeeFoo says:

    Site seems to work just fine.

    ????????????
    .

  63. Milo Hamilton says:

    Sorry Foo, I can’t hear you.

  64. JAL says:

    not a new blog, just a new thread–click on Dejan Kovacevic’s Blog and you will see the new thread with the article.

  65. Milo Hamilton says:

    Please, turn your radio down.

  66. John Lease says:

    1972 hurts worse than this, so does 1992.

  67. Boise Bucco says:

    I don’t view this series as a collapse in the sense that they lost 4 games to 2, or that they were supposed to win the Stanley Cup, yet lost in the first round…I view it as a collapse based on HOW they lost. These weren’t 4-3, hard-lost games (aside from game 1, and even that’s a stretch based on the 3-0 lead.) Game 3 was possibly the worst game of hockey I’ve ever seen. I’ve NEVER been ashamed of a Pittsburgh team before–and I’ve been a Pirate fan my whole life. Crosby pushing Voracek’s glove away, then explaining that “he doesn’t like them”…totally embarrassing.

    Biggest collapse in maturity in Pittsburgh history–absolutely. Derek Bell would think that the Pens were immature in this series. For every time that someone complains that Crosby is a whiner and we back him up, we need to think about his behavior in Game 3.

    Everybody bags on the Lady Byng Trophy and who wins it, but tell me the Pens wouldn’t have benefitted from having a couple Lady Byng winners on this year’s roster.

  68. NMR says:

    Not a single mention of the Pirates last season?

    I know, I know…it’s the Pirates.

    That still doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a systematic collapse of play at a historic level.

    The Pens loss sucks, but it is far from the worst.

  69. Jandy says:

    C’mon Milo. Brooksie has been Mr. Steady for the D for years now. You know SOMETHING has to be wrong. Maybe it is because of the locker room “problem.” Maybe it isn’t his health. But something has to be wrong, because Brooksie hasn’t been Brooksie.

  70. MarkV says:

    Blowing a 3-0 lead vs. the Islanders has to be worse. Only happened once before in league history if I remember correctly. Some folks at the time blamed the collapse on the fact that the next team the Pens would have played was, you guessed it, the Flyers!

  71. Reading says:

    The 1938 Pirates had three Hall of Famers- Arky Vaughan, Lloyd Waner, and Paul Waner. Additionally, they were managed by Pie Traynor, a Hall of Fame player himself.

  72. Milo Hamilton says:

    Et tu Brooksie ?

  73. TJA says:

    For me personally…I am still struggling with Sid Bream rounding 3rd and… Twenty years later….this club holds the professional records for losing seasons… That to me is the mother of all collapses…

  74. RELENTLESS_FORECHECK says:

    I do not believe the Penguins shortcomings are related to the players. Martin and Michalek received lucrative contracts from Shero because they were [arguably] the best two defensemen on the market. When Shero couldn’t come to terms with Gonchar he didn’t go out and replace him with filler, he replaced him with two bona-fide top-four defensemen. Shero wanted to significantly upgrade the Penguins defense and set out in the FA market to do just that. Everybody lauded his efforts. Now, some two seasons later, we’re talking about dumping one of their contracts to anyone who will take it.

    Sorry, but I don’t buy it. I’ll stand by my belief that, on paper, the Penguins defense is as deep and as talented as any in the league. Michalek, Martin, Letang, and Orpik can play top-four minutes anywhere, and the depth beyond the top four is staggering. The problem is not the defense, it’s how the Penguins approach it. And that goes back to coaching.

    Defense is not something you can just adjust like a thermostat just because you’re getting outscored. In order to win hockey games, the Penguins require one of two things to happen: the Penguins overwhelming their opponent with superior offensive firepower or individual heroics from their goaltender. If either of those fail to happen, the Penguins are doomed. Bylsma’s strategy is too often predicated on stacking the odds towards superior firepower (engaging the defense more heavily on offense). Even when the Penguins build a lead, there is never a structured or disciplined effort to defend it. “Shutting the door” should not be a term reserved for only Marc-Andre Fleury.

    I’ll submit that Coach Bylsma has some effective strategies for maximizing the offense and utilizing role players to generate chances. However, I’ve seen nothing since his arrival that will convince me that he’s capable of getting the Penguins to shut down opponents defensively. Offense may win games, but defense ultimately wins championships. I think it’s time for the Penguins to bring in someone who can maximize the defensive talent they have assembled.

  75. NMR says:

    “I’ll submit that Coach Bylsma has some effective strategies for maximizing the offense and utilizing role players to generate chances. However, I’ve seen nothing since his arrival that will convince me that he’s capable of getting the Penguins to shut down opponents defensively.”

    So then who was calling the shots last season? You know, the one where the Penguins managed to survive without Malkin and Crosby.

    Please, tell me specifically what Bylsma has changed between then and now?

  76. Milo Hamilton says:

    @NMR

    To your point – last year the Pens were 6th in goals against with the 5th fewest shots against with the same group of defensemen.

    This year they allowed the 4th fewest shots but slipped to 17th in goals against.

  77. NMR says:

    @Milo – Thanks for adding facts to my drivel.

  78. Kenerdivanis says:

    @Milo & NMR

    I think that Fleury does have to take some of the blame for how far the Pens fell in goals against. Yes, the D in front of him was downright laughable at times, but the goalie has to take some of the blame. I’m not a Fleury basher at all, but as well as he played this year, there were times when his head was on another planet, possibly Uranus.

  79. JT says:

    @ RELENTLESS_FORECHECK
    I happen to agree with most of your points except for canning Bylsma. I believe Martin and Michalek are good players. Your right other than Hamhuis, who wouldnt sign with Pens, M & M were the two defenseman that every team wanted. Shero got both of them.
    I thought both played pretty well the second half of last year, especially Michalek. I don’t see any major difference in the Pens system except that they got faster, and more aggresive when the Pens finally got healthy. Maybe the Pens got too aggressive. Too much leaving goalies and defenseman out to dry.

    Maybe its on Bylsma and not Shero..to incorporate what are two good players (believe it or not) into his system, and put them in position to succeed.

  80. RELENTLESS_FORECHECK says:

    @NMR

    Out of the gate last season, MAF struggled mightily and the defense in front of him was atrocious. For the first half of the season, Johnson held the fort (amid cries of shipping MAF out of town). To his credit Bylsma made minor adjustments to improve defensive responsibility, but the Penguins were by no measure defensively sound.

    In the second half, Fleury caught fire and carried the Pens to the post-season on the strength of his MVP-calibre performance down the stretch. Despite opening up a considerable lead on the Lighting, the Penguins couldn’t shut the door. Fleury had a few off games, the defense faltered, and, against the Pens limited offensive firepower, Roloson was able to steal the series.

    What has Bylsma changed between then and now? Absolutely nothing, which is why the Penguins are once again scheduling early tee times.

  81. RELENTLESS_FORECHECK says:

    @JT

    You’re right about Dan Hamhuis. Shero did make every effort to sign him, but you’re right, he had his sights set elsewhere.

    It’s become culture under Bylsma. Even the forwards have to take responsibility defensively. In the Philly series, I even saw Crosby within a stick-length of Giroux and leave him untouched for a pass from Jagr. I’ve seen defensemen skate in on the rush with four Pens players abreast in the slot, which led to an easy odd-man break the other way. I’ve seen the Pens build three-goal leads within the first frame, only to spend the next 40 minutes slowly allowing their opponent to claw back as the Pens continue to take unnecessary risks offensively. This team is just too talented for these types of things to happen with such regularity.

  82. bdubb says:

    so I just got mapped over to the “new” website and I have to ask – b/t the PG and the Trib – did either one of you have a focus group look at the new design? Is this a finished product? From what I see just as bad as the PG…well, not quite as bad but not good

  83. Roy G Biv says:

    I wouldn’t put this years loss even comparable to the ’92-93 Pens, but more likely the ’93-94 Pens who were still chock full of Hall-of-Famers but lost to a hungrier Capitals team in the first round.

  84. Milo Hamilton says:

    @RELENTLESS

    You’re hazy about a few things from last season. 1st of all, Brent Johnson didn’t hold the fort for the first half of the season. It was actually for about 3 weeks. Fleury started a 15 game unbeaten streak for himself on November 12th. That was the 17th game of the season.

    Also, I consider allowing the 5th fewest shots with the 6th best goals against being sound defensively. They lost last year because Sid & Geno were out and they simply couldn’t score.

  85. NMR says:

    @RF

    You’re obviosly entitled to see things how you’d like, but it takes an awwwful lot of history rewriting to give MAF all the credit for the Pens stellar defensive play last year…

    The facts back me up.

  86. Nate says:

    Two words: Bream and Cabrera… those Pirates were a much, much bigger collapse.

    Pens were not good in these playoffs. That’s not a collapse, that’s just a poor performance all the way through. They only thing that collapsed was your expectations, not the probability of winning.

  87. Vette60 says:

    Biggest collapse…

    No IMO. Bad loss, awful series. Yes? 4 v. 5 with possibly the absolute worst matchup the Pens could have, yes.

    In my sporting memories, I would think the Steelers v. Chargers was a bigger deal. Possibly the Bucs v. Braves, but that was a 9th innning collapse…

    Don’t know. It was bad. We’ll get over it.

    Randy

  88. CWalton_67 says:

    I have to agree that this was a collapse. Worse than 93 Pens? Not sure, but both rank as bitter disappointments. This one worse, I think. Primarily because it was to the hated Cryers, especially with the defector,Jagr, and the Benedict Arnold of his time, Talbot.

    Also because our team is supposed to be the one with character, the one with the intestinal fortitude, the one with discipline, desire, and commitment to winning.

    Turns out they had none of these things. Zero character, none. Even less commitment. They felt entitled, and I can think of nothing worse.

    Like it or not, there is a leadership void on this team, and either it gets fixed or this will go down as the disappointment age of Pens hockey.

    I see quite a few great points above, and I agree that Bylsma shouldn’t be going anywhere, but i have to say I am having some doubts in the system. Another early exit next year, and there is going to have to be a change.

    I’ve been alternately critical and complimentary of MAF in the past. He’s so very talented and athletic. He’s also unquestionably a head case and unlikely to ever win another Cup. I realize that there aren’t many goalies out there who are better, but he is simply not going to get it done here, especially in a system that is not predicated on stout defense as it’s first priority. He’s just not mentally strong enough.

 
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