Despite rosters peppered with young stars, things haven't quite gone as expected for either franchise lately. Both the Penguins and Blackhawks were easily dismissed from the Stanley Cup playoffs this week in six games. Two of the league's marquee teams didn't even make it out of the first round for the second year in a row.
Pittsburgh, of course, has been decimated by injuries, with Sidney Crosby missing the second half of last season with a concussion and much of this season, too. Evgeni Malkin tore knee ligaments one month after Crosby was first concussed in the 2011 Winter Classic -- effectively ending the Penguins' season even before the playoffs.
Still, with Crosby back by the end of this season and Malkin the likely Hart Trophy winner, no team was a bigger favorite entering the postseason than Pittsburgh. But an aging group of role players and a shaky blueline, plus subpar play from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, all played a role in the Penguins' demise.
Similar ills have hit Chicago. It has one of the sport's best young captains in Jonathan Toews and an electric forward in Patrick Kane. But with limited depth at center and equally questionable back-end defensemen, the Blackhawks didn't have enough to overcome a strong effort from Phoenix goalie Mike Smith in a 4-2 series loss.
It's time for both teams to tweak the roster around their core stars. One more early exit and it will be time for major changes.
- Brian McNally