The Pittsburgh Penguins are a team filled with veteran leadership. From Sidney Crosby to Jarome Iginla, the Penguins are filled with players who have been to the dance and learned all the moves. Yet somehow in that room full of leaders there is a lack of leadership and it's costing the Penguins in the playoffs.
For a team that technically has three captains on the roster; Crosby, Iginla and Brandon Morrow, the Penguins aren't playing with veteran experience and need someone to step up and calm the team down.
It was a lack of leadership combined with mental mistakes that saw a completely different Pittsburgh Penguins team take to the ice in games one and two of the Eastern Conference Finals. They got away from their game plan and led by their captain, started playing Boston Bruin hockey.
There's a reason it's called Boston Bruin hockey, because the Bruins are the best at it. They know how to play physical between the whistles, how to get under opponents skin and most importantly what they can get away with. The Bruins like to get involved physically to draw their opponents off of their game plan and strike while their opponents are trying to play "Bruins" hockey. If you're trying to beat the Bruins at their own game you're not going to win period.
In the first two games the Penguins were annoyed. You saw Evgeni Malkin wrestle Patrice Bergeron to the ice and Crosby take a shot at Tuukka Rask. Crosby wears the "C" and is the leader of the Penguins, he also happens to be the best hockey player in the league. But Crosby isn't playing like the best hockey player, we should be talking about his sick goals and great passes to Chris Kunitz.
Instead we've seen Crosby whine and complain to the refs, commit an awful turnover in game 2 and attempt to take on Zdeno Chara in game 1. This is not the Crosby or the captain the Penguins need to lead them to a Stanley Cup, this is the Crosby who is being completely shutdown and frustrated by the Bruins.
What makes matters worse is the fact Crosby doesn't even have a point in this series and has been virtually invisible. In the regular season Crosby is virtually the best player on the ice every game, he has no problem scoring goals and elevating his game to the next level when he wants to. But the playoffs are a different story. In the playoffs, especially in the later rounds everything gets's tighter. There's less space and time and Crosby is forced to make decisions much quicker than in the regular season. Throw the Bruins into the mix and not only do you not have any space or time, but you're also getting hit every time you touch the puck.
The Physicality in this series has thrown Crosby off his game and hasn't given him a chance to be Sidney Crosby. Since the Penguins aren't winning and Crosby is frustrated the frustration goes throughout the entire line-up. What the Penguins have right now is a team that has too many superstars. It's great to have the likes of Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Jarome Iginla in the line-up, but what happens in a situation like this is players take it upon themselves to save the team. The Pittsburgh Penguins aren't playing like a team while the Boston Bruins are.
Crosby needs help. He may be the best player and have a solid character but that's not helping the Penguins win right now. What everyone forgets is Crosby is still a rather young player. Iginla or one of the other veterans needs to take Crosby under their wing and teach him how to get through a rough series because he doesn't know how. Crosby knows how to score goals but does he know how to play when the goals aren't coming? The rest of the team is following the example Crosby is leading and right now it's not a great example.
Now as much as people want to flog Crosby to death it's not all his fault. He needs to step it up, but so do other players. Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow have turned out to be major disappointments and Kris Letang has looked lost on the backend. Crosby, Neal, Malkin, Iginla and Kunitz all have a combined 0 points in this series and the lethal Penguins powerplay is a dismal 0-12.
The Penguins offence has been shutdown on every level, even when they're up a man they have failed to capitalize. Someone in the dressing room needs to step up. Tomas Vokoun has fixed their goaltending issues; now it's time for someone to step up score goals, show the team discipline and how to win.
The Pittsburgh Penguins backs' are up against the wall, it's now or never. We're about to see the character and leadership of Sidney Crosby and the Penguins.