ON PENGUINS POWER PLAY WOES
The Penguins power play is a bad combination right now. Little about it is personnel but more of strategic issues and players unwilling to stay in their lanes.
This is a flawed team 5-on-5 and for Mike Johnston to stick around for the rest of the season, he might need the power play to save him.
Unfortunately for Johnston there’s not a good track record there.
Over the Penguins last 200 power play opportunities they have a 12.5 success rate.
Getting Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby to play in their proper spots has been a major issue for this coaching staff. On the Penguins first power play opportunity vs Toronto, they were setup in the proper formation with Evgeni Malkin at the half wall, but as soon as the puck worked over to the other side, Sidney Crosby as usual moves into Malkin’s spot on the right half wall.
Malkin needs to be the Alex Ovechkin of the Penguins’ power play — Firing one-timers at least once or twice on each power play — with Crosby who has great hand-eye coordination in around the net for deflections/rebounds.
No one on the staff having it in them to get Crosby to play in a set spot continues to hinder the Penguins.
And there’s zero chance anyone from upper management, Jim Rutherford in particular, is going to be willing to ruffle some feathers.
Unless John Tortorella is coming through those doors, a candidate to take over in Columbus, no one on this staff has it in them to tell Sidney Crosby what to do.
If the coaching staff was smart they’d bring Crosby into their office and show him some highlights of the Penguins power play setup in 2013-2014.
What you see on these highlights is Crosby being disciplined for the most part of playing down low and Malkin up top.
High Slot/Rover Role
During the Bylsma era when the Penguins had good success on the power play, the player in the high slot/rover role was a very productive player in that spot whether it was James Neal or Jussi Jokinen.
What stood out then was the comfort level Crosby/Malkin had with that player being left handed in the middle of the ice. That should be something the coaches start to ponder.
Power Play Quarterback
One personnel issue the Penguins have is the lack of a power play quarterback. No matter who the coach is, they seem to believe Kris Letang is a great power play quarterback. He is not.
In the past there has been a need for someone at that spot to be a shot presence but if the Penguins find a way to actually use Malkin and Phil Kessel the right way on the half boards, having a distributor in that spot might be more important.
Olli Maatta is attractive there because he’s a very good distributor in feeding players one-timers.
The Penguins have to start looking at other options than Kris Letang and also have to consider a way to cut down on Letang’s minutes. They’re going to run him into the ground, playing 27-28 minutes most nights. Getting him off the top power play unit would be a start.
Utilizing Phil Kessel the Right Way
Just because Phil Kessel has a great shot, doesn’t mean he has a great one-timer. The Penguins have made a poor strategic error in thinking Kessel was going to be their Alex Ovechkin on the left half wall and pepper one-timers to the net.
That is not his game. Go over the tapes and you’ll struggle to find a Kessel power play goal where he’s stationed in one spot and scores or even attempts an Ovechkin type slap shot one-timer on the power play.
The Penguins have been at fault for trying to utilize him like that and Kessel has been at fault himself for being too stationary and a bit stagnant in the left faceoff circle.
Looking at Kessel’s eight power play goals last season, he scored most of them by moving around and finding the open spots. His shot is most dangerous when he gets the puck in space and takes a couple steps in and then lets it rip.
As the puck works around the right side, having Kessel spot out wide and high on the left boards to put himself in position to receive the puck along the boards like this goal he scored vs Boston last season hasn’t been something we’ve seen out of the Penguins setup. He’s been in too tight (left faceoff circle) against the box most times through the first five games of the season. Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"