Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
Kris Letang expects to play better in Game 2, but that might not mean much when it comes to how the Penguins work their power play. That is because the power-play plan never changed during a Stanley Cup playoffs opening win against Columbus on Wednesday night.
“It's something we've done all year — switch off our point guys,” defenseman Paul Martin said Friday after he and Letang practiced on a second power-play unit at Consol Energy Center.
Matt Niskanen was on the top power play. That look — him on the right point opposite center Evgeni Malkin — is one of “three and maybe four” the Penguins planned to use against Columbus, coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Penguins once envisioned Letang as the power-play quarterback heir to Sergei Gonchar, who ran the man-advantage attack from 2005-10. This regular season, however, they routinely rotated Letang and Martin on the right point on the top unit when both players were healthy — an occurrence in only 22 games — and Niskanen became a regular in that spot in the second half.
Niskanen and Letang provided a right-handed shot option. Regular power-play forwards — Malkin, Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Chris Kunitz — each are left-handed shots.
Later in Game 1, Bylsma used Niskanen and Martin on the points, moving Malkin up, after a short-handed goal by Columbus center Derek MacKenzie early in the second period. Letang said MacKenzie's scoring chance was partially set up because of a bad bounce the puck took when he tried to control it on his stick blade.
The Penguins' power play scored twice in Game 1, bringing its man-advantage total to seven in six games dating to the regular season.
A particular dynamic that proves challenging for opponents is that the Penguins' power play does not use a lot of set plays — even off offensive-zone faceoffs.
“We have no set play, really,” Niskanen said. “Some teams have a sequence for how they want to move the puck. With us, sometimes Sid will set up something on his own, but even that is rare.
“We don't even have a spot where to be on the ice until we get possession.”
The power play works best, Niskanen and Martin said, when a couple of quick passes turn into shots. Often, those come from the points — hence the different power-play looks.
Niskanen's slap shot is hard. Letang's half-slapper is a quick release. Martin has Gonchar's knack for getting the puck through traffic. Malkin can blow a puck past a goalie, but also deke a penalty killer then find an open shooter.
The Penguins believe all of those elements make their power play, ranked No. 1 in the regular season, work. Their playoff plan was always to work all of those elements in.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Bennett status remains fluid
- Penguins notebook: Johnston calls Quinn ‘phenomenal’ coach, person
- Fleury collects career win No. 300 in crucial game against Bruins
- Mears savors success, credits legendary Lange for guidance, inspiration
- Finding balance between toughness, excessiveness key for Penguins’ Downie
- Penguins’ Dupuis diagnosed with blood clot in lung
- New assistant Agnew has Pens’ PK, defense among league’s best
- Penguins notebook: Fleury awaits word on when he’ll vie for 300th victory
- Penguins games therapeutic for Carnegie toddler with rare gene mutation
- Penguins defenseman Maatta makes his return in win over Canadiens
- Starkey: Pens move on with, without Dupuis