Will the Pens PK be better in Round 2?

Jamie Sabau

The Penguins PK floundered in the first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs. Is there any hope that they'll turn it around in Round 2, and we look at why it may not be likely.

Against Columbus in the first round, the Pittsburgh Penguins penalty kill surrendered 7 goals on 27 chances, for a paltry 74.1% kill, which ranks 12th among the 16 playoff teams. This after their regular season PK was 5th in a league of 30 teams with a 85.0% rate.

Over at Get to Our Game they had this thought on why that the Pens PK may now look bad, other than the obvious brief six game sample size to deal with:

Craig Adams and Tanner Glass are Designated Penalty Killers at this point in their career, and they usually do a fine job because, quite literally, that is their only job.  They aren't in the league if they don't kill penalties well.  Take a random November game against Carolina -- Craig Adams' entire career depends on killing those penalties, but Eric Staal's career doesn't depend on scoring on those power plays.  In the grind of 82 games, that urgency can carry a PK to 85%.

The problem is that when the playoffs come around, the opponent not only maintains its edge in talent, but it also equals Adams and Glass in urgency.  Those loose pucks that Adams and Glass get to in the regular season aren't as easy to get to when a more talented player is trying just as hard.

While an interesting theory, that's just one element of the unit, but it does start with the forwards and the Penguins forwards haven't been as crisp in the entire second half of the season as early in the year. Maybe the loss of Pascal Dupuis- usually the #3 PK'er for the Pens- figures into that.

There's also the skill factor on the other side of the ice- the best teams advance in the playoffs and the best teams, just as a generalization tend to have some of the best skill players that can play better on the power play than a league average or worse team. It gets tougher this time of year and, as GTOG said, everyone is trying their hardest at every opportunity.

Another consideration has to be the total time spent short-handed. Referees notoriously swallow the whistle as the playoffs get deeper (hello obstruction!). So far in the playoffs the Pens have spent 40:55 short-handed, ranking them squarely in the middle of the league. They've taken 11 of their 26 PK opportunities in the second period, which, somewhat surprisingly, has been their best period for allowing goals with only 3 against in the second frame.

The Pens power play hasn't been sharp either, scoring 6 goals but also allowing 3 against for a rather putrid ratio of scoring while up a man. But with their talent and skill level, you'd think it's just a matter of time (and making smart decisions) and the PP will be back to humming along.

With this penalty kill, I'm not sure the same optimism should abound. It'll largely be hustle, determination and maybe even some puck luck, but the Penguins need to strive to allow less than the 7 PK goals against next round if they want to beat the New York Rangers.

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