A Look at the Slumping Penguins Power Play: Can They Decline Penalties?
Posted Jan 5th 2009 10:25PM by Adam Gretz - fanhouse.com
The Penguins lost again on Monday night -- fifth in a row -- and continued their struggles with the power play. Entering play against the Rangers, the Penguins had been mired in an 0-for-24 slump with the man advantage. After an 0-for-8 showing at the Garden, you can extend that slump to 0-for-32. Not exactly an advantage.
Granted, the absence of Sergei Gonchar has been huge for the Penguins, which is no doubt leading to some (all?) of these struggles. Still, it's difficult comprehend how a unit that consists of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Petr Sykora can struggle to put the puck in the net on a semi-regular basis.
In the first period of Monday's game, the Penguins were awarded a four-minute power play after a high-sticking call on Petr Prucha, which was quickly followed by a questionable holding call on Dmitri Kalinin. It was going to be a full two-minute, two-man advantage. And they failed to score. Sure, Henrik Lundqvist was stellar in net, but he wasn't in goal for the 24 previous attempts.
So, what's the problem? Being too predictable comes to mind.
Let's take a look at a typical Penguins two-minute power play over the past month.
2:00 ... With the faceoff to the right of the goaltender, Sidney Crosby steps into the circle with Petr Sykora and Jordan Staal on his wings, and Evgeni Malkin and Alex Goligoski manning the points. The Penguins lose the initial draw in one of two ways: 1) A clean loss, or 2) Getting outworked for the loose puck. Once the opposing defenseman gains possession, he's allowed an easy clear, forcing Marc-Andre Fleury to play the puck, leaving it for Malkin.
1:50 ... Malkin leads the rush through the neutral zone and dumps the puck into the zone. As it comes around the boards to Crosby, he attempts a spin-o-rama pass to the slot which is intercepted by a penalty killer and cleared down the center of the ice, forcing Fleury to play the puck, leaving it for Malkin.
1:35 ... Malkin leads the rush through the neutral zone and dumps the puck into the zone. At this point, Sykora chases it down and gets knocked off the puck by a forward who attempts to clear the zone. Goligoski manages to hold it in and slides it along to Crosby. Crosby looks the play over and holds it ... holds it ... holds it ... and then starts to skate towards the middle of the ice, lifting his stick as if he's going to shoot, and then attempts a fake-slap pass to Goligoski trying to sneak in the back door. This play used to work with great regularity for the Penguins, and then the rest of the NHL realized it's the only set play Pittsburgh attempts with the man advantage. Two penalty killers are in the passing lane, easily clearing it, forcing Fleury to play the puck, leaving it for Malkin.
1:00 ... If it's a home game, fans boo.
:58 ... Malkin leads the rush through the neutral zone and dumps the puck into the zone. The Penguins make a switch sending Tyler Kennedy out in place of Sykora. Staal gains possession behind the net and works it around the boards to Crosby. Crosby passes it to Malkin at the point, who quickly passes it back to Crosby, who instantly slides it down low to Kennedy. Kennedy works it to a wide open Staal in the slot who promptly shoots it over the net resulting in an odd bounce off the glass, leading to a two-on-one rush the other way, with Malkin as the only man back.
:34 ... If it's a home game, fans boo.
:20 ... Assuming a shorthanded goal isn't scored on the odd-man break, Malkin leads one final rush for the power play, still looking for its first shot. Instead of dumping the puck in, Malkin dekes a man at the blue line, circles in behind the net, centers it to Staal, who fires it right at the logo on the goalie's sweater. There is no rebound.
Power play ends.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Good news, however, as Gonchar has returned to the ice. Bad news? He's not close to being ready.