At the quarter mark of the season, the Penguins tied their third-best start in franchise history and are three points behind the New York Rangers, who have played three more games, in the Atlantic Division race.
“I like the way we play,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “The guys are battling hard enough to win games. I’m pleased with the five-on-five. I’m pleased with the defensive game. I’m pleased with the penalty killing.”
However, there is one area where Therrien would like to see improvement – the power play.
“We don’t get momentum from the power play,” he said. “It’s only one little concern. We addressed it with the players.”
The Penguins have scored one power-play goal on 12 attempts in their last three games.
“We need to do a better job of executing and getting control,” Sidney Crosby
said. “Whenever you’re struggling you always go back to basics. You always go back to shooting the puck.”
"Keep it simple," said Philippe Boucher, who has seen action on the power play. "Be poised. You want to be more of a shooting power play but you have to be poised. You have to shoot when the lanes are there. It’s going to come. There’s too much skill on this team for it not to happen."
Through 82 games there are going to be stretches where the power play works well and other times when it will struggle.
“That’s just how it goes,” veteran Ryan Whitney said. “There [are] parts of the season where it’s down and then it starts back up again. Not often do you see a power play go a whole year without hitting a rough spot.”
Forwards Matt Cooke
and Tyler Kennedy
took shifts working with the power play but Therrien believes that the key isn't in personnel. He would like to see the Penguins fight more aggressively for loose pucks.
“When we lose the puck it’s like it’s automatically in our own end,” he said. “You can’t have the puck on your stick all the time. Even if you shoot the puck, you’re going to have to battle to get it back.”
We have to find ways to win pucks. It’s a matter of getting it and winning those battles. - Sidney Crosby
“We have to find ways to win pucks,” Crosby said. “Sometimes when we do lose it, then we have to find a way to get it back. When we get the puck we do a nice job. It’s a matter of getting it and winning those battles.”
The loss of Sergei Gonchar, the team’s point-man with the man-advantage, has also affected the team.
“It just shows how good Gonchar is,” Whitney said. “He quarterbacks the power play. We miss him and it hurts. Every play goes through Gonchar. He’s touching the puck the whole game. It just hit a rough stretch right now. I’m sure it’ll be better soon.”
“Your power play has to give you momentum,” Therrien said. “We could go two or three games without scoring goals. It’s not always about the result. We need momentum from the power play. Right now it’s a little bit the opposite. We’re losing all our momentum with the power play."
Despite the perceived rough stretch, Therrien believes that the Penguins can learn from this and become a better team.
“We’re facing adversity with our power play right now,” Therrien said. “We faced adversity in the past years. I’ve always said there’s nothing wrong (with) facing adversity. This is where you get better. It forces you to focus more, to work harder and I’m not against adversity at all. We’re going to have to get better. It’s pretty simple.”> Marc-Andre Fleury
missed practice on Monday with an undisclosed injury. Fleury hasn't practiced since suffering the injury on Nov. 15 against Buffalo.
“He’s still day-to-day,” Therrien said. “That’s what they told me.”
With backup Dany Sabourin’s superb play, there is no need to rush Fleury back. Sabourin leads the NHL with a 1.66 goals against average and is third in the league with a .935 save percentage.
“He’s been really, really good,” Therrien said. “We have a lot of confidence in that kid. We believe in that kid. It’s a process for him. It’s a process to play more games in a row. Right now he’s been really good for us.”
The Penguins will play three games in four nights starting with Wednesday’s road game on Long Island. If Fleury isn’t healthy by that juncture, Therrien will have to decide between starting Sabourin in all three games or allowing John Curry to make his NHL debut.
“We’ll take it one game at a time,” Therrien said. >
The Penguins practiced crashing the net with all of their lines at practice. Shots were taken from the blue line while the three forwards circled around the crease against two defensemen. In a particularly entertaining scrum, Crosby and Hal Gill were getting after each other.
“Whenever we do that drill there’s always intensity,” Crosby said. “That’s good. He needs to get used to it and I need to get used to it.”
Even though Gill, who stands 6-foot-7, has an eight inch advantage, Crosby managed to score two goals during the session. The two players playfully traded barbs after the drill.
“There aren’t too many with his size out there,” Crosby said. “There’s not a better guy to practice on than him. I’m not moving him around as much as he’s moving me around but it’s good to go through that at practice.”Archive