The Penguins power play struggles were magnified in Friday’s 5-1 loss to the Rangers. Pittsburgh went 0-4, failing to score on a 5-on-3 that lasted 1:23 and the Penguins power play woes now become a much bigger storyline as the series shifts back to MSG for Game 6.
The Penguins managed just 6 shots in over seven minutes of power play time Friday night. They are now 1-15 in the series.
“I don’t think we’ve attacked and shot enough on our power play,” Bylsma said after Friday’s loss.
Some of the Penguins issues right now could be not having the right personnel on the ice.
Kris Letang’s play at 5-on-5 has been much improved since Game 5 of the Columbus series but that doesn’t mean he deserved to win his spot on the top power play unit back.
The Penguins have been at their best this season when Matt Niskanen is quarterbacking the power play due to his ability to make the safe play and get his hard accurate shot low and on the net. You knew once Letang’s game was coming around, the coaches would feel that they had to justify putting Letang back on the first unit.
The coaches are said to feel that Letang is the better option there because of his ability to gain the zone.
Niskanen who is tied with PK Subban for the most power play points (6) in the playoffs, played just 1:22 on the power play in Game 5, working primarily with the second unit. Letang was at 5:15.
Philadelphia exploited the Rangers penalty kill in Round 1, going 6-21 (28.6%) and they were very effective at working the puck down low and having a presence in front.
The Penguins went 6-29 in their first round series vs Columbus, clicking at 20.6, but did Columbus ability to score shorthanded have a lasting effect on the coaches still not willing to go with four forwards and 1 defenseman?
The downfall of that decision is that it’s taken James Neal completely out of the equation with the top unit. Neal one of the NHL’s premier power play goal scorers the last three years has no power play goals in the playoffs.
He saw just 2:42 of power play time in Game 5 and didn’t see the ice during the Penguins 5-on-3.
If the Penguins are married to having two defensemen out with the top unit, the coaches have to start rotating Neal and Kunitz.
You gotta get Neal in positions to produce.