The Penguins held their first practice at Mellon Arena in nearly two weeks on Wednesday. The team has a few days of practice until its home opener against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday at 7:38 p.m. The extra practice time may prove beneficial for a Penguins team trying to improve its power play.
Pittsburgh went 1 for 14 with the man-advantage in their two game match-up with the Ottawa Senators in Stockholm Sweden. Rookie defenseman Alex Goligoski prevented a shutout with his first career NHL goal with less than two seconds left in Pittsburgh’s 3-1 loss on Sunday.
“The power play has to be better,” Sidney Crosby
said. “We’ll have some time to work on it over this week. There’s some things we definitely want to improve on. We just need to make sure that we execute and that just comes from practicing. If we can do it in practice and execute, make plays quick, that’s going to transfer over to a game.”
In two games against the Senators, the Penguins managed 18 shots in 25:13 of power play times, including 38 seconds with a five-on-three advantage. Pittsburgh also surrendered a short-handed goal.
“Whenever we’ve struggled a little bit on the power play, we’ve tried to simplify things and try to get shots,” said Crosby, who led the team with six power play shots. “I think we need to generate better quality shots.”
"You just don't want to take a shot just to take a shot," defenseman Kris Letang
said. “You want a good rebound or a good shot all the time. You don’t want to just put a shot on net and the puck ends up back in your zone because it was a bad shot.”
Letang logged significant power-play minutes last season on the point. He and Goligoski, who has played in four career NHL games, will shoulder more power play responsibility with the injuries to Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar.
With life, I like to say you learn to walk before running. We’re asking two young kids to walk a lot faster than you expected. - Michel Therrien
“(Gonchar and Whitney) are our quarterbacks,” head coach Michel Therrien said. “They control the ice really well and you’re asking young players to step in and it takes time. With life, I like to say you learn to walk before running. We’re asking two young kids to walk a lot faster than you expected.”
Compounding the problem is a groin injury that sidelined right winger Petr Sykora for the first two games of the season and possibly more to come. Sykora, who has 94 career power-play goals, finished second on the Penuins with 15 man-advantage conversions last season.
“Sykora’s a sniper,” Crosby said. “He’s usually finding an opening and setting up for a great chance. He knows where to go. He’s a guy who we look at to produce on the power play.”
Injuries haven’t been the only factor. The Penguins lost forwards Marian Hossa and Ryan Malone, two key power-play contributors, this past offseason. Free agent signees Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko are trying to fit in with their new team.
“We have players adjusting to new roles,” Therrien said. “We worked on it in practice today and we’re going to work on it this week. Our special teams needs to get better.”
In the first game against Ottawa, Evgeni Malkin
manned the point, alongside Letang, with Satan and Crosby on the wings. Fedotenko and Jordan Staal
rotated the duty of standing in front of the net. In the second game, Letang and Goligoski worked the blue line with Malkin, Crosby and Tyler Kennedy
Playing against the Senators provided its own set of challenges. Ottawa uses many of its skilled players as penalty killers, and utilizes their speed and skill to play aggressively in their own zone.
“Ottawa doesn’t allow you to get set anyway,” Crosby said. “It's probably not fair to compare our power play aainst a pressure like that. Even if our power play was clicking, you don’t have a lot of time to move the puck.”
“They’re really fast. They have really skilled forwards on the (penalty kill). You have to be careful of their pressure. I think it’s about ourselves and the way we played.”
How good Pittsburgh’s power play will be depends on the Penguins.The Penguins have enough talent to boast one of the NHL’s elite power plays. But with all the injuries and roster changes, it may take time for the unit to click.
When we do things right, we have success. It’s a matter of doing it consistently. - Sidney Crosby
“When we do things right, we have success,” Crosby said. “It’s a matter of doing it consistently. That’s what it comes down to is executing each time we’re out there.”
Therrien put the power play struggles in perspective.
"That's only two games," he said. "Nobody is in panic mode right here. It takes time and patience. We have to work on it. One thing I know, we’ll get better.”