Penguins notebook: Pluses, minuses for mandated, 5-day break
With snow falling most of the day in Western Pennsylvania, Penguins players who planned trips to warmer climates were probably glad their CBA-mandated, five-day off week started Monday.
When they really think about it, though, the break has pluses and minuses.
Sidney Crosby isn't complaining about a vacation, but he noted the Penguins' break this season comes just a few weeks after the team had three days off for Christmas.
“You don't necessarily need it this soon, but it is what it is,” Crosby said. “We have a big stretch coming up after that. To get rest knowing what's ahead, it's not going to hurt us. That's something we can take advantage of.”
After the break, the Penguins will play seven games in 13 days, including a three-game West Coast swing, before having three more days off for the All-Star break at the end of the month.
In order to build the break into schedules, busy stretches have been commonplace. The Penguins, for example, are still smarting from the beatings they took in the tail end of back-to-backs three times in the first three weeks of the season.
They get the break now, but they paid for it in October.
“That's the thing. It's tough,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said. “You saw our schedule at the beginning of this year. Maybe without it, we'd have a little more lenient of a schedule.
“But we're going to be tired no matter what. We're going to be banged up no matter what. It's nice to have a couple days to just enjoy yourself.”
While the Penguins have been limping along for much the season, their special teams have been successful at historic levels.
The power play, for instance, is second in the league with a 27.3 percent success rate, trailing only San Jose's 29.0 percent.
The Penguins are on pace to set a franchise record in that department, which is a significant achievement given the stars who played on the team's power play over the years. The team record is 26.0 percent set in 1995-96.
“All year, it's been like that,” defenseman Kris Letang said. “We've been confident our power play could get big goals for us and keep us in games.”
The penalty kill, meanwhile, leads the league with a 94.0 percent success rate since Dec. 1, killing 47 of the last 50 power plays it faced.
“It's been a big part of some of the wins we've been able to get since then,” coach Mike Sullivan said.
The number is even more impressive given the personnel shake-up that injuries caused in recent weeks. With PK regulars Carter Rowney and Bryan Rust out, Jake Guentzel and Crosby have eaten some shorthanded minutes effectively.
Crosby's recent scoring surge earned him an NHL honor Monday. With a goal and seven assists in four games, Crosby was named the league's third star of the week.
Boston's Patrice Bergeron was the first star with five goals in three games. Colorado goalie Jonathan Bernier went 3-0-0 and was named second star.
Crosby had a goal and three assists in a 4-0 win over the Islanders on Friday and three assists in a 6-5 overtime win over the Bruins on Sunday.
After a relatively slow start to the season, Crosby has moved into the top 15 in the league in scoring with 43 points in 44 games.
Crosby sunk to a tie for 63rd in the league in scoring in the middle of November and was tied for 27th as recently as last Thursday.