LOS ANGELES — Erik Karlsson thinks the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top power play is coming along.
The Penguins man-advantage has struggled to score goals this season, ranking 19th with an 18.2 conversion rate. It’s true. The unit is not the aimless adrift power play from a few weeks ago that mystified observers and themselves. However, results have been slow going, and a unit with three sure-fire Hall of Famers (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Karlsson) should be a little better than 19th.
“We’d like to score a few more goals — we haven’t had too many opportunities. It feels like in the games that we’ve had more opportunities, we should scored a lot more goals than we have,” said Karlsson. “So I don’t feel like we’re in this spot that we were three weeks ago (when) it was a little bit disjointed. I feel like it’s starting to mesh, and guys are starting to figure out a little bit more.”
One interesting note is the Penguins’ second-unit power play success. While there isn’t an official stat that tracks first and second-unit success, we can create an amalgamation with the help of NaturalStatTrick.com. The unit has only about 12 minutes of ice time this season, based on the power play time ice times of Jeff Carter, Kris Letang, and Bryan Rust.
(Letang began the season on PP1 but was quickly moved to power play No.2).
For example, Tuesday night, the Penguins’ second unit had one of the best scoring chances of the game when Vinnie Hinostroza swept across the crease with the puck, nearly tucking it behind Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson.
Statistically, the second unit has about 17 scoring chances in those 12 minutes and one goal. Rickard Rakell, who was recently flipped to the second power play, had a unique insight into the success.
“I think we just have an attack mentality. Whatever they gave us, we’re going to take and try to score on it,” said Rakell. “So we know that it’s our time out there, and there’s not as much.”
“Yeah,” Rakell agreed.
The numbers do show the top Penguins’ power play unit has been heavily set up in the offensive zone. In nearly 35 minutes, the unit has 61 scoring chances but just five goals.
Coach Mike Sullivan didn’t bite when Pittsburgh Hockey Now asked if he thought Rakell was correct and if his top unit could borrow a little bit of that urgency.
“Urgency is an important aspect of the game, you know? You have to play the game on your toes regardless of what the circumstances are: five on five, on the power play, whatever it may be,” said Sullivan. “You’ve got to go over the boards with a mindset that you’re going to outwork your opponent, and in order to make that happen, you have to bring a certain level of urgency. It’s about winning puck battles and loose pucks. And when power plays are good at those aspects of the game, they tend to establish more zone time. Zone time usually leads to scoring chances and, ultimately, goals. And so that’s an important aspect of it.”
The Penguins can breathe a little easier Wednesday after two straight wins and improving to just three points out of a playoff spot. They’ve decimated the formerly winless San Jose Sharks and sufficiently silenced the high-flying Anaheim Ducks. They’ll go for the perfect west coast roadie on Thursday against the LA Kings.
The large–very large–Kings roster is 7-2-2 and is killing more than 87% of the power plays against. The power plays will not have an easy time on Thursday, but for the first time this season, it seems like things are moving forward.
But maybe with a little more urgency for some than others.