JOHN STEIGERWALD: Pens' loss is epic
June 09, 2013 3:00 AM

Can you say epic failure?

NBC announcer Doc Emerick said it at the end of the Game 4 telecast between the Penguins and Bruins: Herbert Hoover was president the last time a team was held to two goals in the first four games of an NHL playoff series.

I’m too tired to look up which team it was back in 1929, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t have the goal scorers that the 2013 Penguins have or are supposed to have. With all due respect to Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, I think you could count the tough saves he had to make in the last two games on one hand. How many shots did he have to stop after rebounds? Again, you probably only need one hand to count them.

One big difference between the playoffs and the regular season is that coaches have time to make adjustments and game plan.

Remember that ridiculous 10-day layoff the Penguins had between the win over Ottawa in Game 5 and the start of the Eastern Conference final? They were averaging four goals a game before that break. Was it the layoff that killed their offense, or was it the plan that the Bruins came up with during the layoff? I’m going to go with the plan that kept Sidney Crosby bottled up for four games and kept the net clear in front of Rask.

How bad was this performance?

Imagine the 1975 Steelers Steel Curtain defense giving up 48 points in an AFC championship game.

How about Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell going a combined 0-for-35 in the 1971 World Series and the Pirates scoring two runs on the way to being swept by the Baltimore Orioles?

Or the 1992 Penguins scoring two goals on the way to being swept in the Wales Conference championship.

Epic.

• The series, despite the Penguins’ pathetic offensive performance, still might be going on with the Bruins up three games to one if not for Jaromir Jagr’s play to set up Boston’s winning goal in the second overtime in Game 3. Check out this description of the play from Thursday’s Boston Herald:

“It was late in the second overtime period and everyone was now skating on will, not ice. The brash, young (Evgeni) Malkin appeared to have outbattled the aging, 41-year-old Jagr for the puck near the boards in the neutral zone and was off on a potential breakaway at a time when such things tend to decide games and, this case, perhaps even a playoff series.

“And then Jagr fought back and desire trumped youth.

“Jagr poked at Malkin’s stick and somehow dislodged the puck, the old man having picked the pocket of the younger one. In an instant it was in flight, Jagr having sent it off to Brad Marchand, who already knew what would happen next.”

You know what happened next. Marchand put it on Patrice Bergeron’s stick and he redirected it past Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun. Game over. 3-0 Boston.

Did you notice anything missing from that beautiful piece of writing?

The hook.

Jagr turned Malkin and the series around with a blatant hook.

If you say, “So what? It’s double overtime,” then you are making the same stupid mistake that the NHL makes.

We all know about the old-school philosophy of swallowing the whistle late in games and letting the players decide the outcome.

Malkin used the skill that has made him a millions of dollars to pick Jagr’s pocket legally. Jagr recovered by counting on the referees‘ stupidity and illegally hooking Malkin and taking the puck.

Think I’m nuts? Just sour grapes from a homer western Pa. writer?

Check out what former NFL referee Kerry Fraser wrote for TSN in Canada:

“There is no way anyone can put a positive spin on the non-call in double overtime that turned the puck over and resulted in the game-winning goal by Patrice Bergeron. ...

“What will be remembered, at least by the Penguins and their fans, is the old-school attitude ‘letting the players decide the outcome of the game’ that crept back, if only for just one non-call.”

As Kerry points out, this was supposed to stop after the 2004-05 lockout: “The ‘new way’ dictated that a referee would get in less trouble for what he called as opposed to what he didn’t. The referees have to make a call such as this at any time throughout the game. When they do, they need to be supported by the entire hockey community.”

It’s not the outcome from the non-call that bothers me. It’s the stupidity that caused it. It only makes sense that, in sudden death, when one unfair advantage gained by a team can instantly end another team’s season, refs should err on the side of calling everything closer. It may seem trivial after what happened in Game 4, but the point is that the NHL still doesn’t get it and probably never will.

• Ray Shero has some decisions to make. The first and most important one is to decide whether the sweep was a result of bad coaching or a good plan poorly executed. Good luck with that.

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