The Penguins’ final media availability of the season resembled the vast majority of those that had preceded it in at least one respect.
A number of players entered the locker room and did their required time in front of the microphones and mini cams.
Evgeni Malkin came in, said he’d be right back, and then left again and never returned.
The final Russian Drive By of 2013-14.
Malkin had made a rare appearance at the podium with captain Sidney Crosby in advance of Game 7 against the Rangers, a show of star power and decorated weaponry the Penguins had most likely calculated to be potentially inspiring, intimidating and otherwise intangibly valuable.
But two days after the Penguins came up short against New York Malkin reverted back to his usual no-show form, a predictable response that only exacerbated the swirling accountability questions that continue to hound the Penguins into the offseason.
Kris Letang, to his credit, tried to take those on head on.
“We’re talking (about) a team that was up three to one in the (Rangers) series,” Letang said. “If you think there was a problem, I don’t think so. It was up to us to finish that series when we had a chance to and we didn’t.
“I’m not going to try to look beyond that. I had the puck on my stick many times that series. I could have scored goals and I did not. I won’t try to find whose fault it is.”
So Letang wasn’t blaming the coaches, not publicly, at least.
And Letang wasn’t alone.
--Chris Kunitz: “I enjoy coming here every single day, coming and working for our coaches. I think they put us with the right information to go out to be successful every single time we go on the ice. Sometimes we don’t play as well as you want to but the message is strong to go out and play your game and you’ll be successful. We didn’t do that for our coaches, I don’t think.”
--Jussi Jokinen: “That's the best coaching staff, the best coach I’ve played for. We all, as a team, respect them a ton. They prepare us perfectly. They give us all details. I don’t think you can ask for a better coaching staff, a better head coach.”
And Pascal Dupuis: “On any good team accountability to each other, to the player next to you makes you win hockey games.”
Upper management will likely offer up a different opinion any day now with regard to Dan Bylsma and his assistants.
That, too, is a predictable reaction in the NHL, and the Penguins are far from above resorting to such a round-up-the-usual-suspects response.
Once Bylsma is fired he’ll become the perfect scapegoat for the players upper management intends to continue selling to Penguin Nation.
Crosby qualifies as the poster boy for such commodities.
As that he was asked during the Penguins’ final media availability of 2013-14 whether he had succumbed to frustration and/or an emotional loss of focus during the postseason, and if that’s been his habit in recent postseasons.
“I don’t feel like I was off my game,” Crosby maintained. “I like to play hard. For every shot I take, the odd time giving a shot back once in a while, I’m OK with that; it’s the playoffs.
“I’m not saying I can’t be better but I’m not going to answer for being emotional. I don’t think my focus was lost.”
Like Letang, Crosby had the puck on his stick many times in the Rangers series.
Accountability, apparently, is in the eye of the beholder.