Pittsburgh's Power-less Play
Alex Kovalev has 132 power play goals over his NHL career, far and away the best on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster. So, when the team acquired him nearly two weeks ago, the consensus was that the team’s average power play would get better.
In fact, it’s gotten worse, dropping from 17.7 percent at the end of February to 16.7 percent today. That’s one full percentage point in just six games.
But don’t blame Kovalev on this one. While he’s third on the active roster in power play time on ice per game (3:48), he’s hardly getting an opportunity to be a difference maker.
Kovalev can’t perform miracles without the puck, which is exactly how he has been expected to work during his second stint in Pittsburgh.
It’s almost as if the players are playing the schoolyard game of “keep away from Kovy” while up a man. I prefer to call it the more grown up name of “shoot yourself in the foot.”
But it’s not just the avoidance (intentional or not) of Kovalev that is causing problems for the free-falling power play. It’s the lack of urgency and the slow pace.
For a team that prides itself on an uptempo system and an in-your-face style, quite the opposite is true with the man advantage.
Everything gets slowed and dumbed down to the point of failure.
I’m not one to yell “shoot the puck” at every opportunity, but of late, it’s becoming more and more difficult to hold back.
This “pass around the perimeter and take the lowest percentage shot possible” game plan is mind-numbing at best.
Whatever happened to quick, crisp puck movement with intent to set up a one-timer? And whatever happened to north/south and east/west passes that get the penalty killers and goalie moving?
The Penguins completely lack in movement and have gotten to the point of predictability. It’s not a plan that has worked, nor one that will work.
With two cannon shooters in Letang and Kovalev, I’d like to see them manning the point, with James Neal in front, Chris Kunitz on the left wing boards, and Dustin Jeffrey on the right wing boards.
While it’s nice to see the coaches showing loyalty to Jordan Staal, it would be nicer to see the coaches recognize that the power play is about scoring goals, and the best way to do so is to put the team’s best goal scorers on the ice together.
Once that happens, the goal should be to prepare either of Letang or Kovalev for a one-timer, with Neal screening the goalie and Kunitz and Jeffrey pouncing on any rebounds that might kick out.
It’s not rocket science or brain surgery. It’s simple, basic hockey. And it’s what the Penguins will need to play in order to regain success.