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Penguins Grades: Nuke the Power Play, Flyers ‘Have Balls’



Pittsburgh Penguins, Penguins power play stinks in 4-3 SO Loss.

The Philadelphia Flyers had no intention of trying to match the Pittsburgh Penguins’ offensive potential. The Flyers strangled the life from the game by blanketing the star players, though the Penguins didn’t exactly begin with a lot of energy. And the Penguins power play may have hit rock bottom.

At least the Penguins hope that groan-inducing output with the man-advantage was rock bottom.

The Penguins had no energy at the start and never found it, though they still had the game within hand in the third period. However, a power play implosion yielded the Flyers a tying goal and a go-ahead goal in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Flyers at PPG Paints Arena.

As Dave Molinari noted in the Penguins recap, their starting goalie has outscored the power play in the last 10 games.

Check out Philly Hockey Now for our colleague Jon Bailey’s perspective, too.

One cup of coffee begot three more before the end of the second period as the Penguins managed just 12 shots on goal on 18 shot attempts. The festive crowd who came for a classic Penguins-Flyers battle instead witnessed a slog.

Here’s a damning stat: After 50 minutes, the Penguins’ top line with Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust had supplied ALL of the Penguins offense. The line had twice as many shot attempts (13) than the rest of the lines combined (6), according to

Jake Guentzel had two goals. Kris Letang had the other, with the first line on the ice.

The Flyers were boosted to 21 shots after 40 minutes with a late second-period flurry, including a pair of set plays to launch Owen Tippett on a breakaway by flying the zone.

The second Tippett breakaway tied the game 1-1, and the staring contest continued into the third period. Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson ripped his team’s energy.

“I think with our start, we didn’t have the crowd involved. Coming from a two-game road trip, (a) Saturday night, it was packed in there,” said Pettersson. “A rivalry game like that kind of use the crowd to our advantage. We didn’t do a good enough job of creating some time and kind of getting on top of them and creating energy that way. So I think our start really killed our energy.”

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang scored the Penguins’ lone goal in the first 40 minutes with a remarkably agile change of direction to scoop a loose puck near the blue line and step into a shooting position just outside the left circle. His shot was deflected by a defender past goalie Samuel Ersson.

The Penguins gave away a third period lead by allowing a shorthanded goal. They fell behind by taking a penalty while on the power play and giving up a power play goal. And they managed to score a tying goal with 21 seconds remaining to force overtime.

However, it was not a well-earned point. It was a squandered point in a game they didn’t play well, yet merely had to hold serve on their power plays to win.

The Penguins tried a couple of wrinkles, which we’ll detail in the analysis, but it’s time. Nuke the power play. It is broken. It has failed. No quotes or player input is necessary.

Open the briefcase. Enter the codes. Nuke the power play.

The last spark of life was a couple of games ago when Kris Letang took the helm with both units. Ahem. More on that Sunday.

Starting goalie Tristan Jarry stopped 31 of 34. Samuel Ersson wasn’t tested nearly enough and stopped 30 of 33.

Penguins Analysis

It was not a high-event game. The Flyers made sure of that. Penguins faithful may wonder if the home team was flat or disengaged, but that was only part of the story.

Structurally, the Flyers deployed an F3, which stayed high at the top of the zone, and the defensemen rarely activated. As a result, the Penguins were perpetually staring at least three Flyers on every breakout and every rush.

The Philly Flyers were content to keep the temperature low with traffic, traffic, and more neutral zone clogging, zone packing traffic.

The Penguins didn’t do nearly enough to bust up the Flyers to break the traffic by using their speed or transition.

“I just don’t think we were good enough,” Guentzel said. “We didn’t have enough zone time. We’re better than this.”

One of the power play wrinkles–putting Jake Guentzel at the point had a little momentum in the first period but did not generate any scoring chances, and it was quickly scrapped.

The Penguins also parked Guentzel and Sidney Crosby on the back post. Crosby extended his stick to take a pass or deflect one near the net, but the Penguins couldn’t get it there. Guentzel also took turns at the back post but to no avail.

It became a battle of patience and will. The team that made a mistake or converted on the power play. Neither the Penguins’ 27th-ranked power play nor the Flyers’ 28th-ranked power play made much of a dent…until a later third-period snipe by Tyson Foester gave the Flyers a late lead.

The Flyers had six shots on four power-play chances. The Penguins had six shots on five power plays, including the one-minute 4v3 in OT that was more of the same.

Pittsburgh Penguins Report Card

Team: D

They primarily played within the game, but one significant mistake allowed the Flyers to tie the game in the third period. The Penguins top power play got greedy in the final seconds of a mid-third-period chance. As a result, Evgeni Malkin was alone on defense, and Scott Laughton scored a breakaway goal.

I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt, but the Penguins players admitted they stunk.

“I don’t think we were very good,” was how Sullivan replied.

The big knock on the Penguins’ performance was they didn’t do enough to break the game. The Penguins didn’t use their speed to get the edges and force the Flyers to defend, nor did they do enough for the dirty ice.

Yet somehow, the Penguins still had this one on a silver platter, but the power play gave it away. That lost point against a team they are battling for a playoff spot could be one of those regretted points.

Contrast the Penguins’ effort with how Flyers coach John Tortorella saw the game.

“We win the game because we’ve got balls. We do,” Tortorella said. “We do stupid stuff. We don’t make some plays sometimes. (We) lose sight of certain momentums in the game, a number of things we have to work on and try to get consistent at — but one thing we do have is balls.”

Guentzel-Crosby-Rust: A

Three goals for the line should be good enough. They did their job by getting into the offensive zone and creating chances near the net. Guentzel’s goals were scored in the crease.

Smith-Malkin-O’Connor: F

Only six attempted shots. TWENTY attempted shots against. ONE scoring chance.

With a mangled bottom six, the Penguins especially relied on the Malkin line, but it was trounced on Saturday.

Power Play: BIG FAT F. 

Not scoring is one thing. Giving up a shortie on one chance and being forced to take a penalty to prevent a shorthanded chance on the next one nearly decided the game and forced overtime rather than a Penguins regulation win.

The Penguins had five shots on four regulation chances. They also failed badly on the one-minute overtime 4v3 chance.

Zero-point-zero. Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.