One more win. One more win and the Pittsburgh Penguins are back in the Eastern Conference finals for the second consecutive year and fourth time in seven seasons. It might have been just enough to satisfy high expectations and prevent major change.
They didn’t get there. Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers means the Penguins have been upset again. Another strong regular season wiped out by playoff disappointment.
Here’s a look at the tough decisions ahead for Penguins GM Ray Shero, assuming he remains the one calling the shots:
1. A possible, if not likely, coaching change
The Penguins have long-term contracts for Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang and Rob Scuderi. That’s a lot of players locked in, which means the most likely significant change is behind the bench, with Dan Bylsma.
Bylsma has a star-studded team, but sometimes his best coaching job comes when those stars are missing. Bylsma’s ability to maximize this regular season's point total while dealing with injuries is impressive (as it has been in other injury-plagued campaigns), but it only raises the expectations when the players are healthy. Those expectations weren’t met, which is a recurring problem.
The big question is which available coach is an upgrade? There’s a strong argument for Barry Trotz, whom Shero knows from his time in Nashville, but it thins out after that.
2. Consider a goalie change
Marc-Andre Fleury finished the playoffs with a .916 save percentage, the first time he finished north of .900 since winning a Stanley Cup. He’s beloved by teammates, and showed moments during the postseason that he’s capable of winning big games. But he’s closing in on 100 career playoff games and his postseason save percentage was at .905 before Tuesday’s Game 7.