The Jake Guentzel Syndrome – Pittsburgh Penguins – PenguinPoop Blog

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“We didn’t lose as a result of we weren’t sufficiently big,” snapped Penguins coach Mike Sullivan when questioned about his group’s physicality (or lack of) within the wake of our disappointing first-round defeat by the hands of the New York Islanders. And he’s proper…to an extent.

Porous goaltending was the first perpetrator, together with shaky group protection, lack of consideration to element and questionable decision-making, particularly by pinching defensemen. However I disagree {that a} lack of measurement and pushback weren’t points, too.

I’ll name it the Jake Guentzel Syndrome.

Earlier than I proceed, I need to be clear. This text is under no circumstances, form or type meant to be a putdown of the plucky Pens winger. I like Jake and have the utmost respect for him. The best way he battles, the best way he ventures into visitors with out the slightest little bit of concern for all times and limb. And, in fact, for his supreme scoring contact.

Only a terrific participant and a personality child in addition.

However all of us noticed what occurred to Jake within the Islanders collection. He was knocked round greater than a type of inflatable bounce-back clown dummies that children like to punch, absorbing eight hits in Recreation 1 and 16 in complete all through the collection.

Unhappy to say, the abuse took its toll. Though Guentzel led the Pens with 25 photographs on aim, many got here from lengthy vary. His lone aim got here from the excessive slot; none from shut vary the place he wielded his stick like a magic wand whereas scoring 23 targets throughout the common season.

The Omaha native wasn’t the one one focused for tough remedy. Linemates Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust (14 hits absorbed every) had been additionally continuously within the Islanders’ crosshairs.

Seeing a gentle food regimen of New York’s rugged defensive pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, the trio appeared to put on down because the collection progressed. Certainly, they mixed for under 4 factors in Video games 3-6 and logged a collective minus-14 over that span. And this from a line that dominated the Islanders throughout the common season.

So what modified? Playoff hockey, that’s what.

As gritty, aggressive and resilient as our Pens are…and when it comes to coronary heart and willingness to soak up punishment to make a play they take a again seat to nobody…their skill to compete bodily on a degree enjoying subject with heavier golf equipment just like the Islanders comes into query.

And make no mistake, heft issues within the playoffs. For the reason that Pens final hoisted Lord Stanley’s chalice, Washington, St. Louis and Tampa Bay have received with what I describe as a hybrid model that mixes pace and talent with an underpinning of muscle.

I cited this instance in a earlier article, but it surely bears repeating. In 2018-19, a super-skilled Lightning squad received 62 video games and racked up a mind-boggling 128 factors throughout the common season, solely to be summarily swept within the first-round of the playoffs by the bruising Blue Jackets. A Presidents’ Trophy winner, actually tossed apart like a rag doll.

Out went talent gamers akin to J.T. Miller and Anton Stralman. In got here bruisers Zach Bogosian, Blake Coleman, Pat Maroon and Luke Schenn. Correctly strengthened, Tampa Bay powered their approach to a Cup.

Different groups took word. Borrowing a web page from Tampa Bay’s guide, Toronto has bulked up, including the likes of Bogosian, Nick Foligno and Wayne Simmonds to their combine in hopes of capturing a Cup.

The Penguins haven’t adopted the Lightning’s lead. Simply the other, in truth. Over the low season we doubled-down on pace in an try to recreate the dynamic that led to our back-to-back Cups. And, hey, there’s nothing mistaken with being quick. However as our playoff loss to the Islanders proved, pace doesn’t essentially trump measurement and construction or assure success. Particularly with the remainder of the league trending in a extra balanced course, with many groups that includes a mix of gamers who possess totally different qualities.

It’s time for the Penguins to do the identical.

Really, we have already got a minimum of a number of the wanted parts for a transition in place. Proper wing Nathan Legare, presently tearing up the Quebec League playoffs for Val d’Or, combines bulk (208 kilos) with a fiery demeanor and a bomb of a shot. Maybe a pure successor to Patric Hornqvist because the group’s emotional energy plant. Fellow prospect and teammate Samuel Poulin likewise combines measurement with talent and has the potential to play an influence sport.

And, opposite to what Sullivan appears to consider, measurement and pace aren’t mutually unique attributes. Jeff Carter is the poster little one for an even bigger, expert participant who can actually skate. His affect on the group was immense. (Consider the place we might’ve been with out him.)

Ahead Radim Zohorna displayed stunning wheels, arms and hockey IQ throughout a productive eight-game cameo, to go along with his hulking 6’6” 220-pound body. And Anthony Angello skates properly for his measurement (6’5” 210) and proved he might be efficient in a fourth line function.

If it hasn’t occurred but, very quickly Sullivan may have a sit down with GM Ron Hextall and president of hockey operations Brian Burke. They’re going to recommend, firmly, that it’s time for the group to maneuver away from a strict pace sport and Smurf-laden lineup and undertake a hybrid model that features a diploma of physicality. They’re going to ask if he’s amenable to teaching a group that performs that model.

It’s not an open-ended query. His reply must be sure.

*Make sure to try Rick Bukers books,

 
 


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