The main reason the Pittsburgh Penguins managed to beat a red-hot Lightning team yesterday was through their dominance on the power play, as they scored four goals with the man advantage. And even though they lost to the Boston Bruins two days ago, they scored on their only power play opportunity to cut the lead in half early in the second period.
Despite being close to a playoff spot, the Penguins have had a lot of even-strength problems this year. They’ve only had the 30th most 5v5 goals in the league and have given up the fourth most goals against. Compared to last season, the Penguins have been significantly underperforming. However, they’re power play has been as dangerous as ever, keeping them afloat in the league while they struggle at even strength.
This year the Penguins power play has scored the most power play goals in the NHL and is converting on 26.6% of their chances, good for second best in the league. As I was tracking the Penguins game against the Bruins (for my own power play data), I thought I’d highlight a few interesting points and show why their power play can be so dangerous. I’ve actually already written about the Penguins lethal power play unit back during the playoffs last year and it seems like the Penguins have largely kept up the pace when it comes to destroying their opponents with the man advantage.
The Penguins used this entry formation a decent amount last year in the playoffs and I like it a lot from them, where two players wait at the offensive blue line and the two other skaters swing up alongside the puck carrier (I call it the Three Back Formation). Last year when Pittsburgh used it towards the end of the Ottawa series and during the Nashville series, it was very successful and effective for them. I only recorded the Penguins using that specific entry formation seven times during the postseason but from that limited sample they performed extremely well, being able to successfully enter the zone every time and enter with control 86% of the time. They even managed to record two goals by using that formation.
Here against the Boston Bruins, Phil Kessel and Sidney Crosby are both able to get the puck with speed and Crosby is able to carry the puck into the offensive zone unopposed, getting the chance to take a quick shot attempt.
Once in the zone, the Penguins take a quick shot from the point and do a good job of recovering the puck, winning it back along the boards and generating an excellent scoring chance in front of the net. Hornqvist is a very effective net front presence and while he may be the least skilled out of Crosby, Kessel, Letang, and Guentzel, he fills his role very well.
For the Penguins goal though, they enter the zone using a basic Dallas Cut formation, with Kris Letang passing it up to Jake Guentzel who can enter the zone and lay the puck off to Crosby.
The Penguins then cycle the puck back to the point and set up Crosby for the one timer, which they then recover and are able to work back around again for the eventual goal.
What the Penguins goal showcases is their excellent passing ability and phenomenal creativity in the offensive zone. Having a power play of Kessel, Crosby, Letang, Guentzel, and Hornqvist is insanely dangerous and it shows by their success rate. After they recover the puck for a second time they start to try to get into formation but Letang recognizes that Guentzel is open and makes a beautiful cross ice pass to him for the goal. A Bruins player probably should have been marking Guentzel but it was still a great goal executed perfectly by Letang and Guentzel.
Pittsburgh definitely needs to work on their even-strength scoring if they want to seriously contend for their third straight Stanley Cup but at least they don’t have to worry about their power play.