Mark Madden: easy to think that the penguin race is over



The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cups in 2010, '13 and '15.

They lost in the first round of the playoffs in '16 and '17, and then they missed the postseason in '18 and this year.

The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cups in 2012 and '14.

They did not qualify for the postseason in '15, '17 and this year, and were eliminated in the first round in '16 and '18.

Neither the Blackhawks nor the Kings have won a playoff series since the last time they won a championship. That's like the Pirates, more or less 30 years or more.

Have the penguins hit the same wall? Have they reached their expiration date?

It is easy to think that it is possible, even probable. The salary cap is designed to avoid dynasties of shorter duration. The stars stay with their equipment, but they vanish. The less important components get increases in the payment in other places.

Much of the core of the Penguins is on the wrong side of the 30s: Patric Hornqvist and Evgeni Malkin are 32. Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang are 31. The team's preference for playing a quick game is less advisable as age That is evident now.

If the future is brighter, the list or style must be adjusted. Maybe both.

Meanwhile, the present is not exactly bright.

The islanders are the antithesis of penguins. His best player, John Tavares, went to Toronto through a free agency last season. However, the islanders finished with 23 points more than last year and three points more than Toronto, which had five points less than last year despite having added Tavares and having more talent than the islanders.

The islanders do not have players who prefer to play a certain style or choose their line mates. They do not need to please the egos. Barry Trotz took over as coach of the Islanders after winning a Stanley Cup with Washington last season, and his unnamed group provided him with a blank canvas.

Trotz used that canvas to color within the lines. The islanders went from conceding the most goals in the NHL to allowing as few as possible.

The penguins prefer to be more abstract. That's fine, unless you're careless, stubborn and slower than the opposition, which allows you to paint with your fingers.

Maybe this should not be surprising. The penguins finished three points behind the islanders. The teams divide the series of the season. The islanders are faster and they look more hungry. The penguins are frustrated and it seems that they just want it to end.

No adjustments need to be made for Game 4. There is no magic bullet. The penguins are being overcome and overcome. The stars are invisible. The penguins have led for 197 seconds of a possible 10,800. They can not build or maintain momentum.

The penguins have to play unimaginably better, and the islanders must disappear. None seems probable. A combination of both seems completely implausible.

The penguins will continue to try to jam their style in the throats of an islander team equipped to stop it. The penguins will not succeed in that attempt, much less four times in a row.

The great story is not the failure of the penguins (although they are). It is the success of the islanders. This series does not close at any level. Nothing is unstable about it. It is a mbadacre.

Game 2 on Long Island provided a microcosm of the frustration of the penguins.

When the game ended with the islanders winning, 3-1, the penguin stars started a mini-fight that resembles a right brat throwing a tantrum after his woobie was torn off. Brought back memories of the merger against Philadelphia are the 2012 playoffs. It was a bad look and did not augur well to move forward.

Penguins are not doing small things, or big things. They are too idealistic, they are not willing to win in any other term than theirs. There is no Plan B.

Mike Sullivan can not be blamed for that, because the preferred method has worked well during his tenure as coach in Pittsburgh. But if the penguins are bounced in the first round, new approaches must be considered and applied. If they are not, Sullivan will become Dan Bylsma, one of his predecessors.

Or maybe it's just time for the penguins to vanish.

The citizens should not be angry. The penguins have made the playoffs for 13 consecutive years. They won three Stanley Cups in that stretch, reached another final and played in another conference final. That is a great race.

But maybe that run is over.

To continue, the penguins must make adjustments in the list of players that the fans will not like and the style adjustments that the players will not like. Look at this space.

Mark Madden presents a radio program from 3 to 6 p.m. Working days in WXDX-FM 105.9.


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