The Penguins overtime win in Florida provided the all of the answers needed to right the sinking powerplay ship that has been taking on water since December 23rd, 2008. Everybody and their mom have the answers to make the powerplay work, most of them revolve around firing Mike Yeo and letting Tony Granato coach it. Not a poor idea in itself considering Granato has played on the powerplay in the NHL and had a year where he has scored 14 goals, which just happens to be the same amount of goals that the leading Penguin in that position scored last year. Other options have getting Billy Guerin off the powerplay or just get Gonchar back healthy and all will be fine.
Not one of these ideas is actually an answer for what ails the powerplay, these are just superficial changes which people throw out in hopes one sticks and works. Fixing the Powerplay requires knowing what is broken with the powerplay. The Penguin powerplay with two Art Ross Trophy winners on it is not playing well unless it is in the top five in the league, no matter who else they are rotating in and out of it. Right now it is in the bottom five in the league, and if Malkin didn’t score the powerplay goal with 2 minutes left in the 6-2 loss to the Senators, it would have been dead last.
Here’s where I submit the problems:
1. The left side is overloaded with Gonchar, Malkin and Crosby.
2. They need a big guy in the middle mixing it up to take the pressure off the rest of the players.
3. They need someone with speed who can shoot, get open and get the puck on dump ins.
Here’s where I fix the problems:
Move Malkin back to the point and move Gonchar over to the right side, same look the Penguins gave in the 4 on three last night which produced the game winner in overtime. Having Malkin at left point makes Malkin the powerplay quarterback not Gonchar. Gonchar has a bit of a problem with wanting to feed his Russian compatriot too much while ignoring others which will work out fine if he’s on the other side. When he passes to him now, the goaltender will have to move all the way across the crease each time to cover, instead of being able to stay on the same side to cover Crosby, Malkin & Gonchar all at once.
Having Malkin at the point is a proven commodity. If you we’re wondering about the December 23rd 2008 date above, that was the day the Ryan Whitney came back from injury last year and the Penguins removed Malkin from the powerplay point position. The powerplay for 10 games before that was working at over a 33% clip and was over 24% with Malkin at the point on the year. Keep in mind the Washington Capitals powerplay has been one of the top powerplays in the league the last two years with Ovechkin at point.
This will also give the Penguins a chance to run that back door pass they have been trying for years, from Crosby to Whitney or Letang who both seem to have the inability to one time the puck. If the pass doesn’t work with Gonchar sneaking in, they can finally put it to rest.
Mike Rupp yesterday got the game tying goal late in the game by standing in front of the net and just waiting for Malkin to get the puck to him. Though Rupp’s highest ever goal total in a year has been 5, which he has this year, his primary job will be screening and causing trouble enough to keep the other teams penalty kill box just a little bit more closed in. ‘Nuff said.
Now all we need is someone who can shoot, get open and win the puck in the corners on dump ins. This is the easiest fix when he’s healthy. Tyler Kennedy. Yes, Tyler Kennedy. Right now the Penguins have 39 year old Billy Guerin in this position and here is where I get heavy on stats. Billy Guerin has played 429 minutes this year, Tyler Kennedy has played 150 minutes, both have 5 goals. Guerin has 113 minutes on the powerplay this year in a position that should be simply getting to an open spot and shooting the puck. He has 2 goals on the powerplay. Tyler Kennedy has played 2 minutes on the powerplay this year. Give him a chance, he is 23 and can grow with Malkin & Crosby over the years into a well oiled power play machine.
Kennedy is quickly developing into a goal scorerer and the sooner this is recognized the better.
When my computer starts malfunctioning it gives me an option of clicking a button and returning to an earlier time when things were running properly. I suggest that Mike Yeo clicks that button and returns to December 22, 2008 before Bylsma lets Tony Granato click that button for him.