Penguins Notes 1/31/2012
After breaking a two game losing streak on Sunday against the Ottawa Senators it seemed they may have made the adjustments needed to play winning hockey. Unfortunately the Islanders came to the burgh on Tuesday night and completely humiliated the Penguins on their own turf dominating them in route to a 4-1 win. When looking at the Penguins record (3-3-0) they appear to be a team struggling to get their groove back, unfortunately its much worse than that.
An ongoing problem for a few seasons has been Head Coach Dan Bylsma’s inability to adjust this team properly when times are not going well. Despite being successful the first two games of the season, the Penguins Powerplay has done anything but impress, they are now 1-14 in the last four games and were unable to score on a five minute major Tuesday against the Isles. What is so mind blowing is that just last season the Penguins had the fifth ranked PP in the league while Neal went on to be number one in Goals scored with the man advantage with 18 goals.
The Current Power play has had Crosby and Malkin sharing ice along the left wall while Kunitz sets up in front of the net and plays the right. Neal and Letang have duties on the blue line. How Bylsma and the coaching staff thought this would work long term much less for a game is beyond me, teams quickly recognized that collapsing on the left wall removes the two best players in the world from being a factor, while having the ability to pick off any pass thrown their way. Neal has an accurate shot, but not accurate enough to shoot from the blue line on a regular basis, in putting him at the point the coaching staff essentially made Neal a non factor. Besides those two huge problems, there is the fact that Letang does not play the point well on the Power play, he is not able to slow the pace down and control the play, he is very quick to shoot or pass when there is no options available instead of holding the puck to take control.
At Wednesday’s practice, the Penguins took 20 minutes and did nothing but work on special teams, and many reports I have heard was, it didn’t look good. Instead of trying something new they decided to go back and try something that failed a couple seasons ago. Malkin and Letang now hold the blue line while Crosby stays along the left half boards while Neal and Kunitz play down low. Malkin has never been very proficient in that position, and this doesn’t fix the aspect of them rushing the play too much. It will be interesting to see if they are capable of executing this or not, but if its anything like it was before, it doesn’t look good.
The Power play is not the only problem this team has though, consistent Offense and solid Defense are affecting this team as well. Why Tangradi was a healthy scratch on Tuesday makes no sense, he was one of the strongest players against Ottawa, and is as responsible as Neal is for scoring the lone goal on Sunday. Each game he was looking more comfortable, but each game he seemed to get less opportunities on the top two lines. In no way is he the reason the Offense is under achieving, but the fact that Bylsma refuses to stick with a line up is. Crosby, Kunitz and Dupuis are playing decent Hockey, but its been 24 months since they played together on a regular basis. We know Kunitz, Malkin and Neal play well together as they were one of the top lines during the season last year. So why is Bylsma so reluctant on putting that line back together, why did he remove Kennedy from the teams most solid line this season which had TK, Sutter, and Cooke? It really makes little to no sense.
Can the entire blame be put on coaching? No, the team needs to buy in to what the coaching staff is doing and execute it to the best of their ability. Bylsma has always been about an up tempo quick transition game, the team was able to execute it the last few years, why not now?
Time is short, and something needs to give soon or the players will be hitting the golf course sooner rather than, later.
What are your thoughts?