March 23, 2016
by Jonathan Bombulie
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It’s not often that a team on a six-game winning streak has a glaring hole in its performance, but the Penguins do. It’s the power play.
They’re 1 for 16 in their last four games and 6 for 57 (10.5 percent) in their last 20 games.
So they spent a good portion of practice the last two days working on it. Coach Mike Sullivan was particularly animated today, barking at the first unit a few times when things weren’t going well.
He has tried a few different combinations in the past week or so, shuttling Phil Kessel and Justin Schultz between the first and second units. For what it’s worth, I thought the top unit looked best today when Trevor Daley was on it.
The Penguins have obviously been able to manufacture enough offense to get by lately without the power play, so it’s not like the ship is about to sink if they don’t get it figured out, but you’d have to figure they’re going to need it at some point down the stretch, right?
Here’s what Sullivan said about his power play after practice:
“We’re trying to get repetitions with some different combinations. We haven’t had a lot of practice time because we’ve had a lot of games in a short period of time. So we tried to give the power play an opportunity to get some reps out there. Most of our focus is just on movement and trying to get more pucks to the net. Today gave us an opportunity to give everyone a chance to get some reps in those different aspects.”
Some other notes from today:
— Brian Dumoulin took part in a full practice and looked good. He’s a game-time decision tomorrow.
Dumoulin on the hit he took from Alex Ovechkin last Sunday: “He’s a tank out there. He’s a big guy and when he’s coming full speed, if he hits you anywhere, it’s going to hurt. It’s good that it was nothing serious.”
— Beau Bennett worked with the second power-play unit in practice today, which looks to me like another step forward in his recovery from an upper-body injury. Sullivan said Bennett is considered a game-time decision tomorrow night too.
Judging by some of the comments I’ve read on Twitter, I might be in the minority on this, but I think getting Bennett back would be a really nice boost for this team down the stretch. A Sheary-Fehr-Bennett fourth line would be a nice addition to the attack, the way I see it.
Just because Bennett gets hurt all the time doesn’t mean he’s not an effective player when he’s healthy.
— An international film crew was in town today and a reporter asked Sidney Crosby about Evgeni Malkin.
“When he’s skating, when he’s using his size, you can’t stop him. He’s a guy you can’t really contain,” Crosby said.
I call Dan Patrick gimmick infringement on that one.
— The six-game winning streak the Penguins are on is not Sullivan’s longest of the season. The Baby Pens, under his watch, won 11 straight games from Oct. 17 to Nov. 15.
This was kind of a big deal in Northeast PA because the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton franchise, around since 1999 with good teams most of those years, never had a winning streak reach double digits. So Sullivan was asked about it a lot in the days leading up to win No. 10. I think his responses were interesting and worth repeating here.
Just before win No. 10: “We don’t talk much about winning streaks. We talk about the next game we have in front of us.”
Just after win No. 10, he was asked for his thoughts on the historic streak: “I have no thoughts,” he said.
Thankfully for my reporter pals in Wilkes-Barre, he later elaborated a little: “We want to win each game as it comes. We’re not looking to get ahead of ourselves and look beyond any one game. That’s going to be our mantra all year with these guys.”
After the streak ended Nov. 20, Sullivan offered this: “For me, there’s no time to reflect at this point. I’ll reflect in the summertime when it’s all said and done.”
Just another reminder about how Sullivan seems to want to make sure his teams don’t suffer any rotator cuff injuries patting themselves on the back when times are good.
Bye for now,