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Are the Pens destined for early elimination?

Two of the East’s top teams have swept the reining Stanley Cup Champion Penguins this season. The Devils did it in six and after last nights 6-3 loss to Washington, the Capitals did it in four. If the Pens can’t get a single win against these high caliber teams, what does that mean for the post season?

Its no secret that the Pens have struggled against these kinds of teams in past years and have still ended up successful in the post season, but a few things need to happen if they want to see that kind of success again.

Marc-Andre Fleury needs to figure out where that Olympic worthy goaltending disappeared to. Recently he has allowed some goals that would make goaltending consultants around the globe cringe. We know he can make the stops, um last 5 seconds of the final anyone? Its the soft ones that shouldn’t sail right past him that make us shudder. “Off” nights can and will happen, it just can’t be happening as often as it has for Fleury. And if/when Coach Bylsma decides he’s had enough for the night, the temper tantrums need to stop. In fact, the tantrums on the ice, due to stupid mistakes, need to stop as well. The cameras capture all of that, he needs to keep his cool.

Evgeni Malkin needs to come back to the lineup on a permanent basis. He was sidelined with a sore foot caused by his own teammate’s shot and after missing 5 games, he plays one and then is out again with an “illness”. Malkin may not be having an Art Ross worthy season, but his presence is a huge factor on that ice. Brooks Orpik had a very good point, “I think teams can focus on Sid more when Geno’s not in the lineup,” he told NHL LIVE!. The Pens have two of the league’s top superstars on their roster,they need both of those threats on the ice. With out one you can’t shake things up or every once in a while throw them both together to create what is known in the ‘Burgh as the “two-headed monster.”

And speaking of Sid, Crosby needs to step up his game as well. This is a player who strives to be the best at his position, but an all around team player at the same time. We have seen in the past what pressure does to Crosby, he comes out on top. Seven games in Washington, check. Seven games in Detroit, check. Rematch with Team USA, check. His post game comments give us no indication of what is really going on in his head. We battled hard and sometimes its not enough doesn’t really cut it at this point in the season. Not to say that Crosby doesn’t work as hard if not harder than anyone else in the league, it’s just that if anyone can and should step it up just one more notch, its definitely him.

It can’t just be up to Sid, Geno, and Flower either. Everyone needs to do their part. Take a page from the book of Pascal Dupuis,, who goes hard every second of every game. Those you don’t expect to need to start putting up numbers. It’s time to get some rest, but not time to skip out on “optional skates” It should be expected to see different line combinations, but eventually Bylsma needs to figure out what works and keep it. Kind of like that saying you can’t fix what’s not broken or in this case don’t fix whats not broken.

And what does the post season have in store for the Penguins? The West may already be locked up, but it is still up in the air in the East as far as who will play who. Washington and Jersey shouldn’t even be on their minds. The focus should be on Ottawa, Montreal, Philly, all those teams they could have to get through first. With what we have seen in the past few games, can they achieve that? Can they go on to what could be their third consecutive Stanley Cup run, or will it be early elimination for the Pens?

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