Penguins Roundtable, Question #4

Tony Ferrante oragnized a roundtable of Pens bloggers over the summer to discuss the Penguins and he’s at it again.  This is the second installment and Tony was gracious enough to allow us to participate once again, one-third of the way in to the season.  Below are the list of bloggers that are participating in the second installment:

Sean Leahy (SL) – Going Five Hole, Chris Wassel (CW) – The Program, FrankD (FD) – Pensburgh, Stephanie (ST) – The Steel City Sports Fan (Penguins Edition), Hooks Orpik (HO) – The Sweater Ted, Greg Wyshynski (GW) – Puck Daddy, Yahoo! Sports Blogs, Chris Gates (CG) – Pittsburgh Puck Talk, Seth Rorabaugh (SR) – Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Empty Netters, Matt Bodenschatz (MB) – Faceoff Factor, Brian Metzer (BM) – Hockeybuzz.com, Jesse Marshall (JM) – Faceoff Factor, Pensblog Staff (PB) – The Pensblog, Tony Ferrante (TF) – Kukla’s Korner/The Confluence.

4.  OK, the unavoidable question.  What the hell do you attribute the problems on the Penguins’ powerplay to ??  Injuries ??  Scheme/coaching ??  Personnel assignments ??  Execution ??  Let’s hear it.
(SL) It’s not Mike Yeo’s fault.  It’s not the injury bugs fault.  It’s the Penguins abundance of talent that’s hurting them with the extra skater.  There’s too many skilled guys on the power-play at one time that no one wants to be selfish enough to shoot the puck.  Too many opportunities are passed up for that one extra pass or pretty move.  The Pens could also use a guy like Ryan Malone who isn’t afraid to muck it up in front of the net.

(CW) Coaching and injuries. I cannot say this enough; coaching helps out.  Therrien has to steer this ship back on course.  Now, the Pens rank 17th (18.1%).  That is abnormal for the Pens, that much is true.  To me, letting this team relax a bit may be more beneficial than harping on it which Therrien has a tendency to do.  Now to the injuries.  Whitney and Gonchar being hurt have killed them on the backend.  That is the stone cold truth, everyone knows this.  Once the health issue gets slowly resolved the Pens will start rising up the rankings.  Malkin and Crosby can’t be on the blueline too as we all know.  Teams eventually do figure out ways to stop you if the Power Play is not a bit more dynamic.  That will come in time.  The Habs are learning the injury bug lesson as well.  Look at their PP, it is 28th so be thankful!!

(FD) In short: Over-passing, over-thinking and under-shooting.  The chemistry is there but the Pens really need to find a traffic guy that can fill the likes of Ryan Malone up front.  If not then the howitzer shot from the point should have some guys down low licking their chops for a juicy rebound.

(ST) There is no big presence in front of the net like they had when Malone was on the team (who had John LeClair as a mentor to develop into such an asset; there is no one currently on the team to help develop someone like Staal into that type of player, so it may just end up taking longer for Staal to develop on his own).  They are always looking more for the perfect play rather than just to shoot the puck to create more chances for it to go in (the more you shoot, the more likely it will eventually go in the net) and it therefore takes them too long to cash in on the opportunity.  As bad as the Islanders are and how badly we beat them last Thursday, it took them only about 30 seconds to score on a powerplay compared to it taking the Pens at a minute or more to score a powerplay goal.

(HO) Not to beat a drum but Gonchar and Whitney combined for 15 goals and 53 assists last year on the PP.  Gonchar was basically the QB of the top unit.  Losing that can’t be under-stated.  Other than that, I don’t see how you can blame the coaching, the right guys have been on the ice.  It’s just a matter of getting shots to the net.  Think of how many posts/crossbars that guys like Crosby and Malkin have hit.  Or all the open net looks that have gone just wide…You could go on and on.

(GW) Personally, I hate Malkin on the point in a fanatical way. But what else do you do with the guy, because Crosbyʼs playing his natural role on PP and Malkin isnʼt exactly Dave Andreychuk in front.  Again, letʼs see what Gonchar and Whitney bring back to the table to see if this unit gets elevated about middle of the pack.

(CG) I want to go ahead and blame this on injuries as well.  With no Whitney and no Gonchar, there is no true leader on the power play.  Their absence also has helped lead to a one-sided approach to the man-advantage.  The second unit has done nothing.  It’s hard to put up good numbers when there is really only one minute or so of legitmate scoring opportunities.  When they both return, it moves Goligoski to the second unit as well as a capable forward.  With more equality among the two power play units the goals will come.

(SR) Unfamiliarity. They’ve moved the personnel around quite a bit due to injuries and inconsistency. You need to get some regular time together in order to gel. The team’s power play was inconsistent going into the playoffs last year when Hossa was inserted. It took them a few games to really get familiar with each other.

(MB) Injuries and execution are my targets.  When a team is without its top two power play quarterbacks, things are bound to get iffy.  Name a team in the league that could withstand the loss of its top two offensive defensemen and do well on the power play.  There aren’t any.  But even so, with Crosby and Malkin on the ice, things should be a bit better than they are.  The schematic of the power play, if executed, works, as evidenced by last year’s showing.  The execution just isn’t there.  No one is working hard for goals.  Instead, they’re trying to make it pretty.  That doesn’t work.

(BM) I will let Coach Therrien answer this one, as he spelled it out for us who gathered for his presser after the come from ahead loss to the Buffalo Sabres on December 8th. “The power play was not good…try to be cute, there is no traffic in front,” Therrien said. “We ask people to go to the front of the net…they don’t want to go…so we need the perfect shot.” It isn’t a problem of coaching or scheme. What we are seeing is something that tends to happen with skilled players. Sometimes they think that their skill supercedes that of the opposition and they want to work a tic-tac-toe play every time for a highlight reel goal, instead of realizing that most power play goals are of the garbage variety. They need to get back to having a big body in front of the net a la Ryan Malone last season. He would park himself in front of the opposing goaltender tipping and deflecting shots all night long. He would also be there for rebounds tap ins and the occasional Gonchar shot off of his shin pad and in. The Penguins have not done that this season, though they have tried Jordan Staal in that role. Getting consistent traffic in the slot and actually shooting the puck during the power play will go a long way towards getting it back on track. It also doesn’t hurt that the Penguins will soon be getting back two of the better offensive defensemen in the league.

(JM) I think injuries play a small part. But overall, you’ll see the power-play trend upward. These things work in an ebb/flow type of style. Teams have been super-aggressive against the Penguins and they’re still in the process of working that out. I’d expect to see the power-play in the top 10 before the season’s end. When Whitney and Gonchar return, we could see a hot streak of epic proportions.

(PB) No idea.  Every speculation has a reason it’s right and a reason it’s wrong.

(TF) I have to slightly disagree with my colleagues on this one.  It’s not totally the coaches fault, but I put a good chunk of it on their lap.  Yes, I fully acknowledge that Gonchar on the point is very difficult to replace.  I also agree with Greg that Malkin up there drives me nuts.  But first and foremost, they haven’t changed their scheme other than minor tweaks.  In addition, no matter how many times they say they’re working on it, you see the same thing over and over and over, everyone standing still and no one moving without the puck, making it SO much easier for the PK to defend.  Also, they refuse to put a right-handed shooter on the LEFT point to generate more one-timers, of which they now have two good offensive defensemen, unless they’re on a 5-on-3.  It’s in that respect that I don’t think Whitney’s addition soon will make that much of a difference, other than the rare backdoor feed from Crosby, he’s nothing more than a pass-through.  Will it improve upon Gonch’s return ??  Most definitely, but if/when they ever start coaching them to MOVE on the powerplay, then you’re really going to see a top-notch NHL powerplay.

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