Forget The Fans, The Penguins Themselves Were Spoiled

Can't be stubborn and lack desire in the playoffs

Matt Koll
April 17, 2019 - 1:27 pm
Islanders celebrate after goal vs. Penguins in Game 4

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s interesting…. almost every year come playoffs time, specially since the Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, the Penguins fan base gets called into question.

If and when the Penguins fail or are struggling and Pens fans complain about said failures, there are those who come to the defense of the organization and label fans as “spoiled.”

Spoiled that every time their team gets into the postseason, (13 straight years by the way), fans complain and rip the team way too much when they don’t go all the way and win the Stanley Cup.

It’s a fan base spoiled by their team having so much success and should instead be appreciative of the incredibly impressive run of winning hockey the franchise has sustained.

Whether or not that is a fair statement is not the focus.

Forget the fans, this year it was the team itself that was spoiled and spoiled rotten.

The Penguins identity under Mike Sullivan and in their back-to-back Cup runs was letting their speed and skill overwhelm opponents, while battling through the overly physical and penalty-baiting traps the team had gotten caught in in the past.

“Just Play.”

But things have changed since then.

Every professional sports league is a “copycat league.” Teams look at a champion, assess why they were so successful and try to emulate that in their own franchise.

After the NHL saw how much winning the Penguins did with their identity, suddenly almost every team in the league built their rosters upon speed and skill.

I think it’s been noticeable over the last two seasons that the Pens are more and more like every other team. They don’t stand out above the rest in the way they play, but they’ve stuck with it.

In come the New York Islanders under Barry Trotz.

A team that had gone from worst to first in goals against. A team that everyone knew, including the Penguins, was going to play a defensive style game that does all it can to slow down a skilled team like Pittsburgh.

They clog the middle of the ice, force you to play mistake-free hockey and capitalize when you turn the puck over trying to do too much.

The narrative heading into the series was that the Penguins would need to change their game. They’d need to play a chip-and-chase style. They’d need to go fish out pucks in the corners, focus on protecting and possessing the puck and limit the risks they took that might leave them out of position for a 2-on-1 the other way.

But they refused. They didn’t adapt and they fell right into the Islanders trap. They figured they could blow through the Islanders simply because that’s what they’ve done in playoffs past. Why should they have to change?

On top of that, they also showed a tremendous lack of desire. When adversity hit, they crumbled instead of rising up to the challenge.

Evgeni Malkin said so himself after the game.

“They were a little bit hungrier. They wanted to win more. They’re blocking shots, they forechecked, back-checked. They looked like the wanted to win more.”

Related: Malkin: Islanders Were Hungrier Team

You know what I hear when he says that?

Spoiled.

They were spoiled.

Refusing to change their game after it was clear it wasn’t working. Thinking they could survive on their talent instead of meeting the demands of the game. Not having a strong enough desire to go out and do what it takes to win games in the playoffs.

The Penguins looked to be spoiled by their own past success.

They thought they could roll on by, doing the same things they like to do and what has worked in the past.

Despite being the more talented team, a hungrier, more disciplined Islanders squad swept them away without a fight.

The fans may be spoiled, but the Penguins were, too.

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