I chose in my game story to take a closer look at the Penguins’ power play, which is generating chances but no goals.
This is problematic for a couple reasons. One is that games are decided by goals, not chances. Another is that teams such as Montreal and Boston, Pittsburgh’s last two opponents, have tried to clog the neutral zone. This frustrates the Penguins, much the opposite of what Tampa Bay did in its willingness to play a more open game.
If this continues five-on-five, the Penguins need an alternative form of offense. It hasn’t come from the power play, and I’m not sure I’d suggest turning to the penalty kill, although it has been solid, to generate many goals.
The mystery of the Penguins power play is quite something. The unit scored on 24 of 68 chances through 21 games — 35.3 percent of the time, the best in the NHL. Not so much over the past 19, as I wrote.
“We’re getting chances” has been a familiar refrain. But sooner or later that has to get frustrating, I would think.
“It might wear on us a little bit,” forward Beau Bennett allowed. “You want to produce when you’re on the power play. You want to be a guy who helps out the team in that way, but I think we’ll get better going forward.”
Many of you laughed about Trib columnist Rob Rossi drawing what he believes would be a better power-play setup, with Sidney Crosby in the right corner, Evgeni Malkin along the right-wing boards and David Perron in the left circle.
It’s an interesting option, for sure. One I would not dismiss.
But enough with the power play.
What I did like tonight came from Malkin and Beau Bennett together. They were extremely good.
I don’t know whether Beau Bennett is ready to be The Guy next to Malkin. We’ll need more than 60 minutes to judge. But Malkin’s pass from behind the net and Bennett’s finish for the Penguins’ first goal was a thing of beauty.
“I thought we had a lot of chances each period,” Bennett said. “It’s something to build on, first time playing with those two guys this year. I thought we did some good things.”
Is anyone in the NHL playing better than Malkin right now? It’s a fair question, in my opinion.
He has points in 30 of 40 games, 12 multi-point efforts in there, including tonight. He attempted 12 shots tonight, and six were on goal. His blast from above the circle for the Penguins’ second goal was a clear assertion of of his dominance.
By the way, he now has a team-high 45 points. Crosby has 43.
“I thought ‘Geno’ had a real good night,” coach Mike Johnston said. “I thought that line was a consistent threat all night. They had pressure. They had speed. They controlled the puck when they had it in the offensive zone.”
It’s clear the Penguins are lacking a net-front presence.
They put 39 shots on Tuukka Rask and didn’t score on a single rebound. Blake Comeau would be a welcome addition. Even better would be the return of Patric Hornqvist. Especially on the power play and especially when opponents are thwarting the Penguins’ transition game.
“The other night, I don’t think we did a very good job in front of (Montreal’s Carey) Price,” Johnston said. “Tonight we did a better job, but we have to find those pucks. It’s a matter of when the rebound hits the goaltender, having a heavy stick and being really strong around the net on those loose pucks.”
Club practices a Southpointe Thursday at noon. Will see yinz there.
Be GRATEFUL to each other,