Kukla's Korner

The Confluence

A Penguins self-improvement checklist

I’m here to help.

So we’re 12 games into the Penguins’ annual mediocre start of their season.  Fans have been talked out of jumping off the Roberto Clemente bridge (slight exaggeration).  Wild rumors are circulating about Mario Lemieux, once again, being in the best shape of his life (OK, I made that one up too).

That said, there are some valid criticisms that deserve to be leveled towards this incarnation of the Penguins.  Maybe it’s in the Pittsburgh water, but the Penguins do a great impression of Adam LaRoche, who always seem to take the first couple months of the season off.

So without further ado (in a somewhat half-assed order):

1.  Poor forechecking - Recent Penguins teams have excelled in establishing a very aggressive forecheck, quite often leading to turnovers, that quite often lead to scoring opportunites.  That has not happened with nearly the same frequency this season so far.  The forechecking has been woeful, and as a result, the opposition has had few problems bringing the puck back up-ice.

2.  Poor puck cycling - Another familiar sight during a Penguins game in recent times has been a steady dose of cycling the puck down low, wearing down the defenders until such time that it breaks down enough to generate a good scoring chance.  Again, this aspect of the Penguins’ offense has been missing a lot so far this year.  Call it poor positioning, call it lack of hustle or lack of effort, whatever you’d like.  The fact of the matter is that without cycling the puck, it clearly minimizes the amount of time that the Penguins will have the puck in their zone.

3.  Inaccuracy - This one is simply mind-boggling to me.  How many times this year have we seen the Penguins on an odd-man break, only to completely miss the net ??  Jordan Staal, so far, is the poster boy on this one.  To be fair though, he’s definitely not the only one, including the big boys of Crosby and Malkin.

4.  Breakout passes - This isn’t merely a result of the injuries to Gonchar and Whitney (more on that later).  However the Penguins defensive corps has had big problems this year in getting good breakout passes out of their zone.  Perhaps it is due to the opposition’s strategy, putting pressure on the youngsters because of the absences on the blueline.  Anyway, it is taking much longer to get the puck out of their zone, and as a result has caused numerous defensive zone turnovers.

5.  Cutesy - Honestly, I don’t believe we’re ever going to see this completely go away, but with the Penguins’ problems scoring goals, as well as even getting shots on goal, it’s highlighted even more.  The Penguins’ propensity for forcing the extra pass, trying to be too perfect and too cute, has resulted in several good scoring changes going down the drain.  They have, in fairness, seemed to have improved in the last couple of games, but they’re not running on all cylinders just yet.

6.  Powerplay - You know I’d get to this.  If you watch the great powerplay teams, watch how much the skaters on the perimeter move with and without the puck to generate scoring lanes.  The Penguins, for whatever reason, do not subscribe to that model, in fact they frankly only move around in response to an aggressive penalty kill.  In my view, it is strictly because of the world-class talent of Crosby and Malkin that they’re as high-ranked in the NHL as they are.  In addition, as you know, I also completely disagree with removing the one-timer option on the points, as they do when they have Alex Goligoski (or Ryan Whitney) on the left point, or Kris Letang on the right point.  Again, in my view, if this team ever really ramped it up on the powerplay, they’d be virtually unstoppable.

7.  Lines/Chemistry - In HCMT’s defense, he’s had to make some moves, considering how putrid the Penguins’ offense had become.  However, it should also be noted that while line changes may have been necessary in order to generate ANY offense at all, you also must acknowledge that the more you change lines, the more you affect the team’s chemistry.  For example, Miro Satan was specifically signed to be Crosby’s “scoring winger”.  However, Satan has only played on Crosby’s wing a few times this year.

8.  Injuries - It’s impossible not to attribute at least some of the blame for the Penguins’ slow start to their injuries.  Not only are the injuries to Gonchar and Whitney a major blow, but also nagging injuries to Pascal Dupuis, Hal Gill, and Petr Sykora.  That said, all NHL teams have injuries, some more than others.  But it’s how those teams overcome those injuries, like the Penguins did last year without Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury, that determine their success or failure.

That’s not so much, right ???

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  Tags: nhl-hockey, pittsburgh+penguins


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About The Confluence

Welcome to The Confluence, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog since 2006.

Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.

I am blogger- credentialed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  My posts are regularly linked by hockey websites such as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Yahoo!‘s Puck Daddy, and I’ve done numerous guest blogger spots on such websites asthe New YorkTimes.  I am a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer.

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