How Did It Come To This?
“Where is the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? They have passed like rain on the mountain… Like wind in the meadow. The days have come down in the west, behind the hills… Into shadow.“
Those were the words spoken by Theoden during the Battle of Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings. It’s a fitting description of the Penguins current state of affairs.
“How did it come to this?”
I feel ya, Theoden King.
Everyone, from those occupying the owners box to the couch potato fan, has got to be asking themselves how has it come to this? It’s one thing to run into a better team. This isn’t that. It’s another thing to run into a hot goalie that steals a series. Again, this isn’t that.
Now it’s a completely different thing to see a team self destruct, implode and fritter away all at the same time. The Pens have no one to blame but themselves, each and every one of them. Let’s start with the Best Player In The World.
Sidney Crosby has no excuses. It’s not an injury, because if it were, he would not have come back strong for 2 games only to fade away again. No, physically his game looks fine. However, mentally, he’s somewhere else. If you look at the lack of “jump” in his play, it is mental hesitation that is causing him to show up for plays moments late. That mental hesitation can also be seen in his lack of shooting, especially on the power play.
When I left the Penguins locker room, two people remained: No. 87 and No. 66.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) May 12, 2014
Listen, I don’t fault Sid too much. He’s been so good for so long it’s easy to take it for granted. There have been times (many times) he’s carried the team. With all of the injuries they have had this year, the Pens would not even BE here without his MYP play. Just because he has no excuses for his poor play doesn’t mean he carries the weight of the blame – though he probably would want that as he is Captain after all.
What about Malkin? He’s playing with some heart, but he’s not taking over games like he has in the past. He shares some of the blame for slumping at the wrong time.
What about James Neal? He’s languishing without Malkin on his line and showing it by taking dumb penalties and with generally uninspired play. More than once this series alone I’ve noticed his lack of hustle.
How about Fleury? He stood on his head these playoffs, playing the role of the team’s best player. The last 2 games, however, have portrayed him as the guy who lets in cheap goals. If the Pens don’t win Game 7, that’s how he’ll be remembered once again.
The defense has only showed up in spurts this series, and when they are bad… WOAH MAMA they are bad!
So what is to be done?
Well, there is nothing we can do as fans and honestly there is little to be done inside the team. By this point in the season, they know the system and how to play it. They just need to start playing it. You can fault Bylsma some for that, as he obviously hasn’t prepared the team well on regular basis or managed situations fluidly, but to say he’s solely at fault is not paying attention to all of the mistakes guys are making. After all, it’s not like Dan can bench the WHOLE team! No, Bylsma may pay the price for the team’s poor play, but he’s not the sole reason for it.
The Pens had a stranglehold on the series and now they’ve left themselves zero room for error. That’s the problem with an elimination game: if the bounces don’t go your way, if the refs have an off night, if you all slump at the same time… it’s over.
In some ways, it could mean more than just an exit from the playoffs.
It could mean jobs.
So, when Bylsma has the team together before Tuesday’s Game 7, he should take a page from Theoden and remind the players that all hope is not lost so as long as they have each other.
That, and maybe fire the team up for a change.
“Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin, and the red dawn.”
It couldn’t hurt to play like there is no tomorrow.
Cross posted at PensInitiative.com