After a brutal Tuesday night loss to the Islanders, the Penguins have rattled off three straight against some of the best competition the conference has to offer.

Before we get into a discussion about the power-play, let’s take a look at a huge aspect of being a defenseman in today’s NHL.

Simon Despres is corralling a puck that was stopped behind the net by Tomas Vokoun.

The Capitals are bearing down on him as he attempts to start the breakout. Specifically, Alex Ovechkin has him lined up. From a positional standpoint, Despres has his back to his first choice, the D to D pass to Kris Letang on the near side of the ice.

Despres has to do something smart to not only give the Penguins a shot at getting the puck up ice, but to avoid a costly turnover in the face of a pretty tough Capitals’ forecheck.

In the red circle, Despres gets blown up by Ovechkin. But the yellow line denotes the trajectory of the puck that Despres plays along the wall.

Knowing he was going to take a hit, Despres makes the safe, high percentage play along the wall. He pays the price to get the puck up ice and give the Penguins a chance at a breakout here.

Also, take a look at Chris Kunitz here. Knowing the options in front of Despres, he bodies up against the second man in for the Capitals and clears a lane along the wall to make sure that puck is going to get out of the zone.

The result of Despres’ sacrifice is a clear rush the other way. Dupuis is up ice, Letang is in support, and the puck carrier has Kunitz along his hip. The Capitals have two players trapped back. The take a hit to make a play approach to this circumstance resulted in a good, clean breakout for the Penguins.

The Penguins power-play not only featured Evgeni Malkin on the point this weekend, it also featured a complete reversal back to the power-play they were running last year.

For a reminder, here is the layout of the Overload style power-play the Penguins started the year with.

Here’s a quick peek at what the Penguins were running today against the Capitals in the set-up that produced Chris Kunitz snipe goal to break the game open.

From left to right across the middle of the ice, that Kunitz, Neal, and Malkin. Malkin is in his typical high point position. Neal is back in the slot as the rover, and in this specific still, Kunitz is assuming the spot that would be left for Steve Sullivan in last year’s set up. Crosby is down low as the net front presence.

Here’s a still of the power-play from last year against the Flyers in the post-season.

The same set-up occurs here on a Letang snipe that is literally a carbon copy of the goal scored today. In the above still, Letang is the trigger man on the side of the ice, Malkin is in Neal’s spot as the rover, Kunitz is the net front presence, and Crosby is dishing the pass cross ice.

Here’s a quick reminder on how this is going to work for the Penguins.

In the above screen that we posted last year, we showed what the Penguins were looking at in terms of power-play set-up.

You’ll have a rover in the slot to draw the defense in and open up passing lanes, you have a distinct cross ice one-timer, a net front presence, and a trigger man at the point.

In some of the power-plays since Thursday night against the Rangers, Crosby has been the net-front presence, but he’s actually adjusted out to just below the goal line rather than the traditional spot of screening the goalie.

The Penguins were able to get back on the board today with patience and zone entry. The above system had a lot of success last year, but it was also troubling at times. So far, I’ve personally liked what I’ve seen from the top unit, and if they can continue to make the right plays, they’ll continue to rack up scoring chances against the opposition.