The Pittsburgh Penguins saw their 2014-15 season come to a disappointing conclusion with a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference first-round series with the New York Rangers on Friday night. The five games are the Penguins’ shortest playoff stint since 2007, according to Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
New York left winger Carl Hagelin ended the Penguins, who started the season as one of the best teams in the conference, season when he skated out from behind the net and put a wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury 10:52 into overtime.
Fleury was terrific all series. He stopped 139 of 150 shots in the series, which included 34 saves in Game 5.
“It’s disappointing,” Fleury said. “All close games, all one-goal games.”
Pittsburgh fought hard against the top-seeded Rangers, but without a healthy Evgeni Malkin, they just couldn’t muster any offense. The Penguins lost all four of their series games by a 2-1 score and each of the last two losses coming in overtime. Pittsburgh scored just eight goals in the series with half of their goals coming in their 4-3 Game 2 victory.
Malkin finished with 70 points in 69 games during the regular season but didn’t register a point during the Rangers’ series.
Malkin: "I want to say sorry to fans, to my teammates. I know I’m a leader on this team. Not so good game. I don’t know.' #pens
— Rob Rossi (@RobRossi_Trib) April 25, 2015
Pittsburgh opened the season on a tear, posting a 16-5-2 record through the end of November. The Penguins then went 7-4-3 in December to end 2014 with a 23-9-5 record. However, the Penguins struggled over the final four months and needed to defeat the lowly Buffalo Sabres in the final game of the regular season just to get into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. Pittsburgh finished the regular season at 43-27-12.
The biggest problems for the Penguins this season were injuries and scoring.
Adrian Dater of Bleacher Report stated that the Penguins lost 343 man games to injury, which ranked as the fifth most in the NHL this season. Pittsburgh played five of their last seven games with just five active defensemen as Kris Letang (concussion) along with Christian Erhoff and Olli Maata were out with injuries. Right winger Pascal Dupruis also missed significant time this season.
The Penguins also only tallied 221 goals — ranked No. 19 in the league — this season which was 28 fewer goals than they scored last season with Dan Bylsma as head coach. Part of the reason the Penguins struggled on offense was because of first-year head coach Mike Johnston’s system. Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said that the Penguins have turned into a “chip-and-chase group of muckers.”
Sidney Crosby finished with 84 points in 77 games, but it was his lowest point per game of his career.
The Penguins’ management have a lot of decisions to make this upcoming offseason.
The Penguins are in a precarious position being over $4 million above the NHL’s salary cap. The Penguins have 22 players who can hit the open market with 12 being unrestricted free agents. The biggest free agents are 34-year old defenseman Paul Martin, Erhoff, Steve Downie and Blake Comeau. The Penguins also have to make the decision whether to keep or trade Crosby or Malkin? Or possibly trade both?
ESPN Insider Craig Custance believes that the Penguins should do three things this summer. Custance believes the Penguins should make a run at Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who is the final year of his contract, get younger on defense and trade defender Rob Scuderi.
[Photo by Jaime Sabau/Getty Images]