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Powerless play

Last season the Pittsburgh Penguins struggled without Sergei Gonchar.  The power-play didn't click and the Pens floated down to the pack of the Eastern Conference standings.  So far this season, in six games the Penguins have done a decent job pulling out wins (4-2 sans Sarge) but the power-play has struggled.

Let's take a look at just how brutal it's been.  If you have a weak stomach you might want to skip this out, especially at the part when Evgeni Malkin went down.  It's not for the feint of heart.  Consider yourself warned.


Game                                      PP          Notes
vs. Florida (Oct 23) 1 for 6 Sidney Crosby scored the goal (assists to Alex Goligoski and Malkin).  Crosby would also score a short-handed goal in this contest.
vs. NJ Devils (Oct 24) 0 for 3 Five shots on goal, but Martin Brodeur was up to the task and shut the power-play down.
vs. Montreal (Oct 28) 2 for 5 PP started out 0 for 3, but then scored two 3rd period goals (one by Evgeni Malkin, one from Chris Kunitz on that breakaway) once the Pens already had a 4-1 lead in the game.  So even though they did score two goals, they weren't very important goals.
at Columbus (Oct 30) 0 for 5 Four shots on goal.  Believe it or not the Penguins registered five shots on goal while killing penalties.  Kunitz also scored a SHG.
vs Minnesota (Oct 31) 0 for 3 Just three shots on goal in this game.  Goalie Nicklas Backstrom was tremendous in this contest and Pittsburgh wasn't able to beat him.
at Anaheim (Nov 3) 0 for 6 Only registered five shots on goal, despite having four complete power-plays in the first period, the Pens couldn't strike pay dirt.

Alert readers will note that the PIttsburgh power-play has narrowly outscored Pittsburgh's penalty-killing unit by a mark of 3 to 2.  Also, though it hasn't been pretty, at least the Pens haven't given up any goals while they have the man advantage.  Sure, it may be a little much to say "at least the opponents aren't scoring when we have the power-play" but given how disjointed and frustrating the PP has been, perhaps it's important to remember that it could be worse.

Kudos to The Pensblog who pointed out that Evgeni Malkin has missed the past three games and then Pens have laid an 0 for 14 egg without Geno.  Malkin and Gonchar combine to lead roughly 90% of Pittsburgh's rushes in the crucial early stages of getting the puck in the zone and getting personnel setup.  Lose one and you can cover with the other, but when both are gone obviously it's going to be tough.

Dan Bylsma has so far been loyal to keeping Chris Kunitz and Bill Guerin on the first power-play unit with Crosby and defensemen Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang.  That five-man unit probably has more turnovers and mis-plays than shots on goal and certainly scoring chances. 

Worth switching up?  Tyler Kennedy's shown his customary jump in his return to injury, and he's never afraid to shoot the puck.  Jordan Staal could use his size and frame down low to work the puck more effectively.  Heck, even a guy like Mike Rupp has shown his noted goal scoring ability and could stand in front of the net to help the defense's shots.

With Malkin on the shelf for at least 1-2 more weeks and Gonchar's return further out than that, Pittsburgh is going to have to find a way to convert on the power-play if they want to keep leading the league in points.