The Penguins were expected to deploy a lethal power play this season with the addition of Phil Kessel along the left wing boards opposite Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Instead, Pens have started this season 0 for 17 and look nothing like a team that knows how to work with the man advantage.
How does a team as supremely talented as the Penguins struggle to own the ice?
The Penguins have had 15 of their 17 power plays start on a faceoff in the offensive zone, winning 10 of 15 (67%). So it is safe to assess faceoffs from Crosby (8-4), Malkin (1-1), and Bonino (1-0) are not the problem.
According to War-on-Ice, Penguins have generated just 8 on-ice high danger scoring chances for in 17 power play opportunities, .471 chances per power play is 21st in the NHL. Toronto leads the league with 1.067 per in their 15 power plays. Winnipeg is league's worst at just .188 per power play.
Corsi For per Power Play isn't any better (19th)
Last October, Penguins scored 15 goals on 38 power play opportunities (PPO) and averaged .763 high danger scoring chances and 2.87 Corsi For per PPO.
We've seen Crosby, Malkin, Hornqvist and Letang be a productive and dangerous unit on the power play. It can and should be done.
I went back to look at the Toronto game (Saturday October 11th, 5-2 win) last season and notice the alignment within the zone has Malkin at left point, Letang on right point, Crosby is on left wing wall, and both Kunitz and Hornqvist are in front of the net. Notice the space available for Malkin, Crosby and Letang.
The puck works from Malkin to Crosby and over to Letang, even more space available because the defense has to worry about Kunitz and Hornqvist around the net.
Letang shoots the puck, it misses wide and goes right to Crosby... notice Crosby didn't stick to the wall, he moved to the net and with an opening deposits the puck into the net for a goal.
This is what Mike Johnston and Rick Tocchet need to do by getting back to basics with owning a man advantage around the net and causing traffic for the goalies that force teams to be spread out, leaving the points to be free to make a play or shoot the puck.
It also would be helped by ALL the forwards rotating on the ice, namely Crosby moving his feet. Far too often, Crosby gravitates to the right wing boards and floats around without much purpose.
Look at last night's power play, Kessel gets the puck off the draw, moves it up high from left point to Letang to the right point. Malkin is circled in green, Hornqvist in red and Crosby in blue.
Watch what happens when Letang moves up with the puck... Crosby floats away from net as does Malkin moving to the slot. It limits the options for Bernier to consider on a shot and makes it much easier for Toronto's defense to stay in their box. Letang shoots the puck, misses the net (as expected) and off screen is Kessel trying to be late backdoor for a loose puck rebound.....
What's the result look like on a bad miss on net.... Toronto with open space on the PK... so the post-game narrative you read about the second power play unit being a problem... it wasn't just them.
The coaches must get this collection of stars to buy into playing a very simple game on the power play, otherwise, we'll see more of above.