"Mad Monday" with @MadChad412 (Pens' Special Teams woes) - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Monday, October 28, 2013

"Mad Monday" with @MadChad412 (Pens' Special Teams woes)

For the first time this season I actually have come into my "Mad Monday" post with real topics involving the Pittsburgh Penguins to rant about. The Pens were so good coming into this past week, posting a 7-1 record to start the 2013-2014 season. Since last Monday, the Pens have now found themselves on a three-game losing steak, being outscored 9-4.

The Pens are still in first place of the division and they're missing key components so it's far from time to panic. That being said, there are definitely some big concerns to point out.

I'm mad about the Pens special teams right now.  The Pens' special teams is usually an aspect of the game that is a huge strength, especially the power play. Not this year though; and especially not during this three-game losing streak.

In the 0-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche the Pens went 0-7 on the power play. They followed that up with a 0-5 performance on the power play in the 3-4 loss to the New York Islanders on Friday night. In their last three games, all losses, they're 1-15 on the power play. That's just not going to cut it.

Of course all power plays go through droughts, but when you have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin I think you should expect better results. That being said, they're still operating at over 20% on the season, which is still good enough to one of the top power play units in the league at season's end. Unfortunately, right now the Pens' power play is ranked 16th in the league.

Now, they've been without 40+ goal scorer James Neal all year, and when he comes back the power play will certainly be better. The Pens already got Kris Letang back in the lineup, but he's obviously a little rusty. Actually, Letang has been terrible in his first two games back.

The Pens' don't shoot enough on the power play, that's a given. They're still missing the days of Sergei Gonchar as well. They just don't have that shot anymore. There's also way too much passing. I hate to sound like a "yinzer" and say that they need to shoot more but they do. Eric Majeski, blogger for LetsgoPens.com made a good suggestion saying that the Pens should try to use more setups on the power play from behind the net. That is how they scored their only power play goal during this 1-15 stretch.

The penalty-kill isn't much better right now. In fact, it's actually worse. The Pens have the sixth worst penalty-kill in the NHL right now, only killing 76.7% of their penalties. The crazy thing is the Pens are the second most disciplined team in the NHL right now, only being shorthanded 30 times. Unfortunately, they've allowed seven goals on those 30 penalty kills.

So what's wrong? Obviously the penalty-kill being a problem isn't something new for the Pens. Last year they were in the bottom ten in the league in that category as well. One problem is something they really can't fix and that's personal. Jordan Staal, Max Talbot, and Matt Cooke are all gone. They were all the Pens best penalty-killing forwards over the best 4-5 years. Now they rely on a older Craig Adams, Brandon Sutter, and guys like Tanner Glass, and even Joe Vitale.

They even tried to play Malkin on the PK the other night. I suggest they don't try that too much. I'm ok with Sidney Crosby getting some time on the PK though.

The biggest problem is protecting the front of the net. The Pens allow their opponents to generate far too much offense down low, and for some reason they have a hard time protecting the front of their own net. That problem can get even worse if Robert Scuderi misses significant time. Deryk Engelland has the style to play that type of role, protecting the net, but he doesn't have the skill set to go with it.

You can see that here on the power play goal scored by Phil Kessel in Saturday night's loss to Toronto Maple Leafs.

Leafs worked the puck from the point to down by the net, Pens collapsed and neglected Kessel, the Leaf's top goal scorer on the backside. We've seen this before. Again, the concern I have is the Pens aren't even a undisciplined team. What if they start taking more penalties? What if Scuderi is out long-term? The Pens' coaches are going to have to make some strategic adjustments in order to fix their PK  because the personal isn't going to change much.

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