Losing is never easy to get over, but it’s a bit more acceptable when a team is beaten by a better opponent.
The toughest part about losing is when it happens after maximum effort wasn’t given, and for Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, there’s a concern about his team’s effort after it lost Game 4 of its first-round series to the Columbus Blue Jackets in overtime Wednesday night.
“The work and compete and the battle level has probably been the most troubling thing,” Bylsma said, per Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “In Game 3, after getting down two goals for 50 or 55 minutes of that game, it wasn’t perfect, but we were the desperate team. We took the game to them.”
“It has to be raised. It has to be back up to a level that is necessary this time of year and (with) this type of hockey — playoff hockey.”
The Penguins didn’t play with the same kind of energy and focus in the third period that they showed in the first two periods while building a commanding 3-0 lead against a Blue Jackets team that lacks playoff experience.
Instead of pushing forward and creating scoring chances, Pittsburgh sat back for the last half of the third period and was content to make a defensive stop, gain the red line to dump the puck in Columbus’ zone and then make a line change.
As a result of playing not to lose instead of finishing the game strong, the Blue Jackets scored with 22 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, then won the game four minutes into the extra period with a goal from Nick Foligno.
For the Penguins to win Game 5 and avoid traveling back to Columbus facing elimination, they need to show more poise and assertiveness with the puck in the third period. Pittsburgh has a roster full of Stanley Cup champions who know what kind of effort is required to overcome adversity in the playoffs.
There’s no excuse for a team under immense pressure to win a championship after repeated playoff failures in recent seasons to show an embarrassing amount of effort in a crucial Game 4.