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Penguins lack mental toughness for playoffs

By: John Galletley

Sidney Crosby has always been one to get rattled when things doing go his way and that is very clear in the Penguin's series against the Rangers.

Sidney Crosby has always been one to get rattled when things doing go his way and that is very clear in the Penguin’s series against the Rangers.

For the past few years, the Pittsburgh Penguins have always been looked at as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders. This year, because of how bad they were playing going into the playoffs and how bad they have been playing in their series against the Rangers, frustration has showed on the Penguins side, testing their mental discipline which has been an issue swept under the rug for years by “experts”.

We all know this year’s Penguins team is not nearly as good as in years past. Most people will say health is an issue for them, which is fair. Other people will ignore the fact that they’re a top-heavy team with poor leadership. The Penguins have relied on Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to carry them without much other help and it’s finally catching up to them.

Crosby is no doubt one of the most athletically skilled hockey players in the world. However, what experts have ignored is the fact that he can get rattled very easily if things don’t go his way. Yesterday’s playoff game was a perfect example. The Rangers played 55 minutes of perfect and smart hockey, really taking Crosby out of the game as he only had two shots on goal. Ryan McDonagh was all over him and didn’t allow him any free space. He definitely paid the price for this though as Crosby’s answer to it was giving McDonagh a few cheap shots and high sticks to see if he would retaliate. McDonagh, like a real captain, kept a cool head and didn’t fall for Crosby’s traps.

This isn’t the first time the Penguins have had issues. They’re a team that most fans consider dirty with Crosby getting treated like the Golden Boy of the NHL. In this series however, the refs have been ignoring his Oscar acts to try to force penalties.

When the Penguins do get rattled, they usually lose. One series in the past that stood out was the 2012 first round series against the Flyers. In that series, there were fights for what seemed like every five seconds and the Penguins gave into the Flyers style of play. As a team not built for that, they lost in six games. They looked even worse after that when the Devils embarrassed the Flyers the very next round by simply not giving into the Flyer’s attempts at physical play and playing smart hockey.

The Penguins are not a team that plays smart playoff hockey or has the mental discipline for it. Teams and players going to get tested in the playoffs and the Penguins seem to get rattled and panic at the first sign of trouble with this year being no different.

The Los Angeles Kings didn’t cruise to a Stanley Cup last year without getting tested and being in a dark place where they could’ve easily given up if they had the mental strength of the Penguins. Instead they rallied back and played their best hockey when they needed it most such as against the Sharks coming back from 3-0, against the Ducks after trailing 3-2, and against the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.

With the Penguins being a low seed this year, people are starting to get a closer look at flaws they’ve had for years. Unless there’s a significant improvement these next few games, it looks like the Penguins will have an embarrassingly early exit in the playoffs and they will have to question their team as a whole going forward.

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Want to talk sports? John Galletley is the man to go to. He has been following sports of all kinds since he was a child but had a first love for baseball being in a family of Yankees fans. He also loves to travel and has used sports in order to do this including taking several road trips to MLB stadiums and other sports venues. John has always dreamed of working in the sports world and wants to make his way there as a writer in order to follow the philosophy of never working a day in your life if you love what you do.

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One Response to “Penguins lack mental toughness for playoffs”
  1. Bobby Kupcha says:

    John, Great article! I agree with what you are saying and it is a big reason for them being down 3-1. But this could still be a series with Fluery. He was always the issue from how good he was when they won the cup to why they were a 1st or 2nd round bust. So far he is standing on his head to keep the Pens in the series but just proves the Rangers are getting key goals at key times and the Pens have no answer to the hitting