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Penguins unhappy with increased obstruction, decreased power plays

| Tuesday, March 13, 2012

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman couldn't have been more dismissive.

Many in the Penguins' organization couldn't be more frustrated.

Scoring is down around the NHL, and many of the Penguins believe obstruction is up.

Bettman isn't concerned about scoring being down for a fourth consecutive season.

"I think we're having a terrific season," Bettman told the Tribune-Review last week. "Actually, if you look at it in terms of even-strength play, it's not that many fewer goals being scored."

Even-strength scoring, though, isn't the issue.

According to statistics on, hooking and holding penalties are down about 12 percent this season. NHL referees are on pace to call approximately 400 fewer minor penalties this season than during the 2010-11 campaign.

The Penguins currently own the NHL's second-best penalty-killing unit (89.3 percent) and its seventh-best power play (19.7 percent). They would prefer to put their special teams on the ice more often.

They have been awarded only 97 power plays in 33 games since the Christmas break, an average of 2.9 per game. Before Christmas, the Penguins were awarded 147 power plays in 35 games, an average of 4.2 per game.

"We aren't getting to our special teams," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "We aren't getting power plays. It's pretty tight right now. There aren't a lot of scoring chances. There probably should be a lot more penalties than are being called."

The NHL instituted rules to enhance scoring opportunities following the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season.

However, following an initial boom of offense, scoring is on a steady decline since the 2008-09 season. In fact, scoring has dipped during five of the six seasons since the lockout, including the past four campaigns.

When NHL rules opened up the game during the 2005-06 season, goals per game jumped to 6.17. The number of goals per game this season is down to 5.44.

"The game is way tighter now," star Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said. "I mean, part of it is teams just being desperate for points and playing more conservatively. But yeah, there isn't any room some nights."

Orpik said the recent lack of penalties wouldn't be a problem but that different officials have different philosophies on just what constitutes a penalty.

"It's different every game," Orpik said. "So it's tough. You never know what you're going to get."

The Penguins were particularly miffed following a 2-1 shootout victory against Florida last week. Both teams resorted to tactics more commonly seen in the 1990s because, frankly, penalties weren't being called.

Consider coach Dan Bylsma's assessment following the game: "There wasn't a lot of room out there. It was rough getting on the inside, almost a playoff-type of room out there in terms of what was allowed and getting to the net."

Most players are in agreement that more is "allowed" now than in previous seasons. Given that the Penguins' system is based on puck retrieval — and not subtle interference — bending of rules does not work in their favor.

"Our team is built for the new rules," Orpik said. "Not the old rules."

Additional Information:

By the numbers

NHL Games played on Oct. 6-Dec. 25: 518

• Shutouts in those games: 65

• Number of 1-0 games: 15

NHL games played on Dec. 26-March 11: 516

• Shutouts in those games: 81

• Number of 1-0 games: 23

Goals per game in 2005-06 season (following lockout): 6.17

Goals per game during 2011-12 season: 5.44

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