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Blame Game Begins

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Was Rick Tocchet coaching the power play last season?

Remember the unit that started 15 for 38 (39%) in October and the assistant in charge was.... yeah, that guy Rick Tocchet. After that sizzling start, Tocchet's power play went colder than the Consol Arena Center ice (34 for 216, 15.7%) to finish the regular season at 19.3% (10th in NHL).

During Jim Rutherford's end of season press conference, he said this about the power play, "I don’t believe that our power play shoots the puck enough. Too often we try to make the perfect play. Early in the year when we were clicking along at a much higher pace than we knew we were going to, we shot the puck a lot. We worked off of rebounds and breaking up the box. They’re so talented that they’re trying to make those perfect goals and perfect plays. The players are aware of what changes need to be made on the power play. As the season went along, I agree, our power play was disappointing and underperformed. It can be fixed because we have the players that are capable of doing it."

This past Tuesday, Dejan Kovacevic wrote, "If you’d like to see the Penguins’ power play go better than 0 for 17, it might be an inspired move to let the assistant coach responsible for said power play actually run it. Rick Tocchet’s got as much to do with the power play right now as you or me."

Then after Saturday night's embarrassing 5-minute power play that gave up more scoring chances and turnovers than their own shots on goal and chances, Kovacevic wrote about it again, "I could fuss all the more about that since Johnston has for some reason stripped Rick Tocchet of being tasked to run the power play. Presumably because he’d know more."

I'll never question the legitimacy of the information that is written or said by DK, his ethics are too strong to make something up. Which leads me to my question, why now? This type of move had to occur before the season, during training camp... so why now?

It wouldn't surprise me that someone is playing the blame game. If Tocchet was the source, no doubt it was done to keep his job and deflect criticism of the very thing he talked for two years about knowing how to fix with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

And if it wasn't Tocchet, well, good luck with that guessing game but know this much, this blame game feels all too much like massaging the opinion of the masses. That's politics, a game David Morehouse has brought to the Penguins.

If Johnston needed a reminder that his seat was getting warm, that golden nugget should have been a glaring alarm for him to get with the winning or he's gone.

This is the NHL

Mike Johnston's belief that wingers should play on their strong hand really defies common sense for anyone holding an understanding of hockey above the novice level. What does Johnston think happens when his left-handed or right-handed centers are going along the boards or when the wingers have to cross over to the opposite side on the rush?

This is why David Perron has been uncomfortable on the right-wing as a third or fourth liner and why Daniel Sprong is so badly misused on the bottom two lines as well and not a left wing on a line with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Wasting talent is a good way for a coach to lose his players and eventually that turns into losing games when others see the same thing... a minor league coach out of his element.

Maatta Being Wasted

What Johnston is doing with Olli Maatta is unfathomable.

Maatta is fourth among defensemen with 16:39 Time on Ice per game, just ONE second more than Rob Scuderi and somehow behind Ben Lovejoy's 17:55 per game. What's worse, Maatta is basically an afterthought on the penalty-kill.

Player SH TOI
Kris Letang 2:41
Rob Scuderi 2:26
Ian Cole 2:13
Ben Lovejoy 2:11
Brian Dumoulin :38
Olli Maatta :11

The only explanation is Johnston is trying to slowly get Maatta back into the game after only playing 20 game last season due to a second shoulder surgery while also having to battle cancer and mumps. Confidence is a fragile thing, Johnston and Gary Agnew would do well to eventually start giving more to Maatta, he needs it.

Let's finish on a happy note

Marc-Andre Fleury is basically in beast mode, ignore the team's overall slow start.

In the eight games, he's given up just 16 goals with .932 save percentage.

Among goalies having played at least 300 minutes, Fleury is tied for second having faced 49 high-danger shots (42 saves, 7 goals). Ryan Miller is first with 51 high-danger shots (43 saves, 8 goals). Meanwhile, Carey Price has faced only 37 (35 saves, 2 goals).