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5 Penguins One-Timers: Power Play Failures a Matter of Will, Not Talent



Pittsburgh Penguins, Kasperi Kapanen

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ power play scores less than one in 10 opportunities. They’ve plummeted to the NHL cellar and just 9.1% after 13 games. Worse, the man-advantage is more like a movie intermission or a two-minute infomercial for more kitchen utensils.

Sure, it’s mildly interesting for a moment, but you soon realize there’s no point. Literally and figuratively, there have been no points to the Penguins power play.

In 44 chances, the Penguins have scored four goals.

Pittsburgh Penguins One-Timers

1)  Now, here comes the twist. The Penguins’ shooting percentage ranks above several teams, such as the Toronto Maple Leafs, with top power-play units.

In other words, the Penguins are converting chances. They’re just not creating enough shots, not enough pressure, and enough chaos for the PK.

The power play went gently into that good night and nearly gave up a breakaway while on a 5v3 early in their 6-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

“That’s a big, big part of the game–that five-on-three early. We’re not able to convert there and just a couple of opportunities out of it or, one, we missed the net. One, we got a shot right off the faceoff, but not nearly enough chances-for in that situation,” acting head coach Todd Reirden said. “So it’s something we’ve got to continue to work at here, but at the beginning of the game, that’s important…despite not scoring and getting momentum from that, (it) comes back to cost us.”

A simple look at the Penguins power-play shot chart from Saturday night shows part of the problem. Predictable shots from the right-wing circle and further back, but not enough near the net.

A goalie will stop the shots he sees.

Pittsburgh Penguins


2)  Much lesser teams are converting. The Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and even the Ottawa Senators are clicking about 20% or above.

A power play isn’t rocket science. The other team has fewer players to defend. Many teams keep it simple–puck to the net, win that puck, put it in the net.

Perhaps a body bigger than 5-foot-11, 180 pounds (Jake Guentzel) near the net would create more traffic.

3)  After a hot start, Drew O’Connor is disappearing. He had five points (3-2-5) in his first four games but has no points in his last seven.

As a fourth liner, points aren’t necessarily how coaches will judge him in the film room, but he has just six shots in his last six games and has been shotless in two of the six.

Perhaps a few press box nachos are in order, soon, to recapture that energy and “new” intensity.

4)  Too many mistakes, too many sloppy moments. Juuso Riikola may not be an NHL defenseman. Perhaps if the Penguins did more to get him ice time several years ago when they signed him as an undrafted Euro free agent, he would be more versed on the symphony of movement and predictability of the Penguins system.

It’s mainly on the Penguins’ misuse and lack of development. Juuso should have been in WBS during his rookie year when he was waivers exempt or in the Penguins lineup (We also wrote that back then). Riikola makes a healthy salary ($1.15 million), but he has the physical skills of a more talented and more useful defenseman.

Unfortunately, he makes too many minor mistakes, which create larger situations, to be reliable. His game is too loose. Maybe he’ll figure it out with much more playing time this season, presumably with the WBS Penguins.

5)  The Casey DeSmith watch begins. DeSmith has to recapture the form and results of mid-season last year when he reeled off eight-straight games by allowing two or fewer goals.

He doesn’t look sharp. Right now, he looks small, and his technique appears to be breaking down. There were too many big rebounds on Saturday night, and his lateral movement created large holes (5, 6, and 7).

As we already noted on Saturday night, Louis Domingue has twice as much NHL experience.

Penguins GM Ron Hextall may have gotten a bit lucky–Domingue’s stock was at an all-time low this summer. He admitted he lost his motivation, and it crumbled his game, but he seems to be reborn with the Penguins organization.

It gives the Pittsburgh Penguins options.

By the way, Filip Lindberg (who bears a striking resemblance to 1980s David Bowie) is playing pretty well in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, too.

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Pittsburgh Hockey Now Editor-in-Chief, formerly 93.7 The Fan, Sportsnet Hockey Tonight, NHL Home Ice. Catch Dan tweeting @theDanKingerski and the official @pghhockeynow account.

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1 year ago

Screw sending out talent. Start with the third and fourth lines with any 2 defensemen with simple instructions. Shoot the puck and go to the net. Anything else you ride the bench.

Robert Shoemaker
Robert Shoemaker
1 year ago

SHOOOOOOOOOT!!!!!! 🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂

Funny, but true in this case. Send 2 players to the front of the net, one for a screen and the other for tips and rebounds. The other three shoot and get it through to the net. Stop being so passive and keep it simple.

1 year ago

Rikola is not an NHL defensman at this moment. He reminds me of a tweener. Too good for AHL and not good enough for NHL.