After scoring just one goal in their last fourteen power play opportunities, the Penguins decided to change things up yet again.
Evgeni Malkin will now play the point while James Neal will command the half-boards. Anyone whose watched more than five games with Malkin on the point knows he's not comfortable in that position. When you consider how pass-happy both he and Kris Letang (playing on the other side of the blue line) are while on the man-advantage, it's amazing this idea has found its way back into the minds of the coaches.
This whole debacle, people think, is based on the fact that Dan Bylsma cannot run an effective power play unit with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the ice at the same time. The real question is, why do they have to be on the ice at the same time? Is there a rule that says a power play goal is worth two when both 71 and 87 are on the ice? Obviously they are both world class players, but what difference does that make when they share the same strengths on the power play?
If Dan Bylsma can make the power play work with both players on the ice, excellent. If he finds a way to make it work with Crosby and Malkin split onto separate units, great. Both scenarios work better than having both players on the ice for an ineffective power play. And that's where the Penguins stand right now.
The Penguins finished last season with the fifth best power play in the league. They played more than half of their games without Crosby and saw their power play numbers improve in the playoffs once Crosby and Malkin went to separate units; a move that had to be made after the Flyers scored two shorthanded goals early in the series.
The truth is, the amount of talent doesn't necessarily determine the success of the power play. Obviously, the more talented your team is, the more chances they SHOULD be able to produce; however, it means nothing if the plan of attack is in shambles. Need proof?
Who had the highest power play percentage last year?
The Nashville Predators.
That's right, the team whose top two scorers that year (Martin Erat and David Legwand) combined for just two more points than Evgeni Malkin, had the most effective power play in the league. Shea Weber certainly had a lot to do with that success, scoring ten goals with the man advantage. But the Preds also got eight PP goals from Patric Hornqvist and five each from Mike Fisher, Martin Erat, David Legwand, and Colin Wilson. All because they have a plan and they are confident in their ability to execute that plan.
The Penguins, by the looks of things, have no plan. After taking 45 seconds to gain the offensive zone and establish their positioning, there's very little movement and too much hesitation. Passes are bounced back and forth between James Neal, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. You would like to see shots, but they can never get a lane open because of how stationary everybody is both with, and without, the puck.
Side note: this actually hurts the team's penalty killers too because they have to face this freak show in practice. It's no wonder Matt Moulson and John Tavares picked apart the box configuration the Penguins were showing Tuesday night.
Honestly, I can't break it down piece by piece. If you're looking for that, go to Face-off Factor.
This is on Dan Bylsma. He needs to come up with a comprehensive plan and utilize the right combination of players to execute it; whether Malkin plays the point, the half-boards, or on the second line (same for Crosby). It doesn't matter who is on the ice as long as there are consistent results. Otherwise, Bylsma's seat will get hotter at the boos at Consol will get louder.