There is not much to say about game seven between Montreal and Pittsburgh. One team came to play at 7:00pm/EST and the other around 8:30. Pittsburgh turned the puck over regularly in the first period and for a portion of the second while Marc-Andre Fleury continued his unspectacular play before being pulled in favour of Brent Johnson.
When Pittsburgh did start playing their brand of hockey it was just too late and that is simply because of Jaroslav Halak. Against any other goaltender Pittsburgh may have tied the game in the third but not against him, he was too”Halakian.” If Montreal can advance to the finals we could see the third player in 23 years to get the Conn Smythe despite not winning the cup.
J.S Giguere did it with Anaheim when they lost to the New Jersey Devils while Ron Hextall also won the playoff MVP award in 1987 after Philadelphia lost to the Edmonton Oilers. Halak could be up next for the honour.
Montreal was able to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s lack of depth on the wings and this may be something the team has to take a look at this off-season. Pittsburgh has $20 million invested in their top three centres and a change via a trade is not out of the question (look out Jordan Staal!).
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will continue to shoulder the offensive load for the Penguins while veteran Bill Guerin, who is 39 years young, will ponder his career as he is currently contract less in the NHL. Also up for grabs among forwards are Ruslan Fedotenko, who sparingly played in the playoffs this season, and pest Matt Cooke.
Fedotenko is likely done with the Pens while Cooke could earn another stint with his improved play in the playoffs. Alexei Ponikarovsky is a question mark going into next season as he did not have a good two series or stint in a Pens jersey (called it!) but is a useful big body if Guerin is not brought back.
On the back end, Pittsburgh has some big decisions to make about the future of some of their players. Sergei Gonchar, Jordan Leopold, Jay Mckee and Mark Eaton are all unrestricted free-agents heading into the Penguins golfing season.
With the signing of Kris Letang to a multi-year contract, Gonchar’s run in Steele town could be coming to an end as Pittsburgh could use his $5 million dollar cap hit to fill some holes. Mark Eaton, who is nothing more than a five or six defenceman, could be brought back for a price similar to his $2 million previous contract while Jay Mckee is a possible rotation player in the Pens core.
After Marc-Andre Fleury’s performance in the playoffs, a new goalie that could push him might be in order. Brent Johnson has been good and the Pens need to decide if he is capable of challenging Fleury in net. Johnson’s contract is now up which means we may see a new face in Pittsburgh’s goaltending tandem.
I thought Sidney Crosby looked tired or injured in the series versus the Canadiens because frankly, he just did not have any jump in his step. It is easily noticeable when Crosby is feelings good and during this series, he was not able to beat players one on one and was not the one man wrecking crew he was against Ottawa.
This may be because of Montreal’s play but that is just a hunch I have and I’m sure we will find out in the coming days. The grind of the past two seasons could have caught up to Pens or perhaps they did not have the drive for another run.
Regardless, Pittsburgh has some serious decisions to make on defence and need some more depth on the wings if they want to improve on this years showing. Also, Fleury…figure it out!!!!
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Written by Amit Mann