Of all the additions the Pittsburgh Penguins made prior to this season, chemistry seems to be the most elusive.
Through the first four games, the Penguins (0-3-1) have showed flashes of connectivity with one another. However, with only 11 of team’s 21 skaters donning a Penguins jersey last season, this team is still coming together.
“Chemistry – we’re trying to build it and it’s going to happen,” Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said. “It’s just a matter of how soon and when it’s going to take part in all three zones.”
In addition, the Penguins are still adjusting to the NHL’s rules changes, which have changed the way players can defend their own zone.
“Playing defense in your own zone is a lot different than the last time we played hockey. You go into your own corner and you get beat out of the corner, you were able to offset getting beat out of the corner by hooking or holding and maybe getting back even,” Olczyk said. “Now, that’s not the case anymore. You have to keep your stick down and you have to have body position on the defensive side of the puck. We worked extremely hard (Tuesday) and I was really happy with the way we practiced. We’ll continue to do it until we get better at it. Again, we’ve shown signs that we can do it. It’s just a matter of consistency. We need everybody to do it. We know we need to work on that area and we’ll continue to do it and get better.”
Olczyk and his staff went over defensive zone coverage in Tuesday’s practice, which was held at the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island due to Tuesday’s NBA preseason game at Mellon Arena.
“We’re just making sure everybody is understanding. Going out there and working smart, not necessarily working any harder, just working smarter,” Olczyk said. “As I told the guys that, at times (Monday) night and the last couple games, we’ve done a really good job in our zone. Then there’s been other times where we don’t know what we’re doing. Sometimes that’s trying to do a little too much or trying to compensate for where other guys are or not and that’s what happens. Sometimes, less is more in your own zone and you just have to do your responsibilities. If you have any questions or doubts, you get yourself back to the middle of the ice. That’s pretty much what we tried to get accomplished and all the guys understand that. It just comes down to execution.”
The Penguins have yet to win a game, but they are still racking up points while adjusting to the new rules and each other. The Penguins are third in the Atlantic Division with three points – one behind leaders New Jersey and the Rangers.
“We’ve gotten points in three of our last games. To me, if you get points in a majority of the games you play, you’re going to have success,” Olczyk said. “There’s no question that we want to win a game. We have a tough weekend coming up. We go to Philly and we have Tampa here on Saturday. We have to make our breaks and we have to bear down.”
The Penguins travel to Philadelphia on Friday and return home to Mellon Arena to face Tampa Bay. Friday's game will be televised at 7 p.m. on FSN Pittsburgh, while Saturday's game will be shown at 7:30 p.m. only on UPN 19.