Now I know that the recent Pens PP should be ashamed of even remotely being associated with the word POWER. A couple of other words like; Pitiful, Pathetic, Passive, Powerless and Perturbing come to mind instead. However, that doesn't mean that the Penguins don't have the personnel to run a successful PP, far from it. Now, I’m not of the overly simplistic view that the PP can be cured with some miracle move (that won’t stop me from proposing one however). No, there's no quick fix to repair this broken cog. But some things can be fine tuned a bit, specifically; mentality and effort.
So time for a little role playing; I am an Assistant coach for the Pens and I'm in charge of running the PP. What I do now? (Apart from changing my phone number, wearing sunglasses & hats in public and casually perusing AHL want ads that is)…
MEET WITH PP PLAYERS - BE SELFISH, DON'T DEFER, SHOOT MORE!
One current problem of the PP is deference. Specifically to Geno and Sid (and in seasons past Sergei Gonchar). Now, you obviously want your star players dictating the flow of the PP but when it gets to the point where your strategy becomes predictable, it only hurts the team. Doesn't it seem like the Pens PP consists of Goligoski passing to Crosby, then passing the Malkin, then back to Crosby and then well… you get the idea. On the opposite side of the spectrum we have an example of Letestu using Crosby as a decoy, passing to an open Kunitz instead and bingo, tie game. There are after all five players on a standard PP, use them! Then there’s shooting the puck more. Now that might sound obvious but the Pens prefer to look for the perfect play rather than getting a garbage goal on their PP. That mentality has to change. The most efficient power plays shoot the puck, plain and simple. The Capitals understands this, Pascal Dupuis and Tyler Kennedy understand this and the Great One understands this; “You miss a 100% of the shoots you don’t take.” (Now Hooks will no doubt claim that Kennedy is no Gretzky but that doesn’t make the logic any less sound) :P
I've been saying this for awhile and it looks like people are starting to agree. Seth of Empty Netters said recently;
“The power play is an embarrassment. The Penguins have some of the best talent in the world and they can't figure this out. The Capitals have comparable talent and - this season early struggles aside - they are a beast on the power play. Why? Because their players are just selfish. Guys like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Green just take the shot. If their inital shot doesn't go in. Guys like Mike Knuble and Brooks Laich can clean up the second chances.”
CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY!
This shouldn’t be difficult with our current record nor when you finally convince your players of one simple fact: A first minute PP goal in the 1st, counts as much as a late PP goal in the 3rd, meaning the first five minutes of the game are just as important as the last five. (Marian Hossa said something along the same vein but I didn’t feel like pulling his quote). However, human nature gets the better of even athletes as they too are guilty of procrastination. Think about when the Pens are down a goal or two late in the third and they get a PP, well they’re a lot more inclined to win battles along the boards, create traffic in front of the opposing goaltender, open up shooting lanes and subsequently, get more shots through. In short, they’re playing with DESPERATION! The drive to score on the PP should be consistent regardless of time of game or score for that matter (although I don’t encourage running up the score). This applies not only to the PP but the overall game as coming out flat (apart from yesterday’s game where they finished flat for a change) has been dogging this team and it’s more difficult to play from behind than with a lead.
SPLIT UP MALKIN & SID!
The reasoning behind this is very simple, creating a sense of urgency and competition. I heard a recent interview with Canadiens coach Jacques Martin discussing this very point when talking about his struggling PP. He said that he didn’t have two PP units that competed and feed off each other, which caused the first PP wave to be more passive. (Think about it. When there's a PP the players know who's going out there regardless of score or situation. This applies to our Pens as Sid and Geno both know, that they're playing the PP and if they so choose, play the entire 2 minutes. This eliminates all sense of urgency and results in lackluster PP’s. I'm on the PP, I have the time, let's look for the "perfect play".) This way, they each get a minute PP time and would undoubtebly be fresher and more aggressive. I'm of the firm belief that a little internal competition between Geno and Sid would only be a good thing. Plus separating them would mean that GoGo only has to pass to one of them before finally getting on with it.
These are all subtle, intertwined mentality shifts that would do wonders for the Penguins ailing power play in my opinion. I truly believe the Pens have the personnel to have a great power play, they just need some little tweaks here and there, get some garbage goals and start to feel good about themselves. Once they start playing with confidence and a little urgency, the PP will be fine.
P.S: As bad as last night's collapse felt, let's all remain positive and support our beloved Pens. I wouldn't like to see this blog become as negative as pensblog (after all you don't dominate the B's for 40 minutes witouth doing something right). GO PENS GO!