No Changes on top power play unit
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins enter game 3 on Monday with their power play 0-for-13 in the series and 6-for-79 in the last 25 games.
The Penguins got away in the regular season with an inept power play but that won’t happen in their first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Despite an awful performance on Friday night, it doesn’t appear there will be any drastic changes from a personnel and structure standpoint.
In fact, based on today’s practice, do not expect any changes to the Penguins top unit.
Kris Letang and Zbynek Michalek remained on the points with James Neal, Jordan Staal and Alex Kovalev down low.
The structure of the overload pretty much also remained the same.
How do the Penguins fix the power play: A starting point would be to get Kris Letang off the first power play unit.
This isn’t me jumping Letang over his play in game 2 but as I’ve been writing for weeks now, I’ve felt he’s been a problem at the point for quite a while.
Letang has been erratic for several weeks and just continues to look like a player whose rattled. A good move by the staff would be to try to lessen his load a bit but based on today’s practice and Bylsma’s comments of late, that isn’t going to happen.
But, here’s why I feel Letang should come off the top unit and Alex Kovalev move to the right point.
The two primary issues for the Penguins I see is that Letang and Michalek don’t have the presence to back the opposition off and the other issue is Alex Kovalev’s inability to win puck battles or get to the puck on dump in’s.
However, taking Kovalev off the top unit shouldn’t be a consideration as he’s the Penguins most dynamic forward.
The easy fix would be to put Kovalev at the right point and Michalek at the left point.
What we’ve seen from Kovalev during his limited time on the point with the Penguins is how he draws defenders back and opens up space. Right now there not getting that with Letang.
Kovalev back on the point would give the Penguins that type of presence they lack and Michalek would also give them two legitimate shot threats.
By moving Kovalev to the point, the Penguins could then get Chris Kunitz back on the top unit, most notably for his ability to get on the forecheck and win battles in the corners, something they are missing with Kovalev playing down low.
The Penguins would then have three players in Neal, Staal and Kunitz who could get in on the forecheck fast, be physical, and possess the ability to win puck battles in the corner.