An even 13.0% for the season. Ranked #23 in the league.
Who has any idea what to say about this? I’m stumped. I’m listening to the post-game show after the Rangers game and both Grover and Bourque are stumped. Those are two much, much smarter hockey minds than me.
Over the last couple of years, it was easy to be frustrated by the powerplay because it seemed almost too simplistic. It was predictable. The shot was almost always coming from Gonchar at the point or Malkin at the circle. There was little rotation or movement.
With Gonchar gone and Mike Yeo taking his talents to, well…Houston, Bylsma has taken over the powerplay and implemented his own design. Instead of two skaters at the points, they now slide a third up above the circles – a rover, of sorts. The system seems to be designed to run through the three at the top of the zone, moving the puck mostly between the three of them. As these three move the puck, they tend to rotate amongst the left, center and right points. The result is a lot of motion at the top of the zone and almost like a weave in basketball it looks designed to open up a long-range shot from the top. The forwards down low then crash the net looking for a rebound. In some instances, the rover sneaks down into the high slot and looks to shoot from there.
In the times when it’s worked, it’s looked great. You still see a lot of the same elements as before – shots coming mostly from Malkin from the top of the circle, Gogo in the center of the ice or Letang from that left point. But it’s seldom translated into goals, at least not with much consistency.
Through the first ten games of the season, the powerplay was 8-for-54 (14.8%).
Through the next nine, including tonight’s 0-for-6 spot, the power play is 4-for-38. That’s a very below average 10.5%. What’s especially frustrating is that three of the losses in these last nine games have been by one goal.
Most frustrating is the fact that this unit is this bad with the talent that it’s putting out there. It’s almost inexplicable.
Then again, hockey is a strange game like that. It’s seldom easy to look just at numbers and make some sort of hard-and-fast determinations on the way a team plays.
Back in 2003-04, the three worst teams in the league were the Penguins, the Capitals and the Blackhawks. The Capitals and Pens had just 46 wins between the two of them that year, yet they finished with the sixth and seventh-best powerplays in the league, respectively. The Pens’ leading scorer that year with 52 was the immortal Dick Tarnstrom.
Dick in a Box. Haha. Get it?
So who can explain this? The 2003-04 team won 23 games. Their leading scorer’s name sounded like something guys get when picking up girls in the seedier sections of Las Vegas. They had one 20-goal scorer. They had Morozov and Milan Kraft. There was a dark cloud of suck hanging over the team, otherwise known as Rico Fata’s play in the defensive zone.
Yet they had a powerplay that clicked at 18% for the year, almost twice the rate that we’ve seen from the Crosby-Malkin-Letang-Goligoski led powerplay over the last 9-10 games.
The simple reason may have been that the 2003-04 team shot the puck more. They kept things basic because they didn’t necessarily have the talent to do much more. Tarnstrom led the way with 12 powerplay goals. Morozov had eight. Milan Kraft, Richard Jackman (who could shoot the puck) and *gulp* Rico Fata each had six.
In the years following the lockout, the powerplay was terrific.
In 2005-06, they were sixth-best at 19.0%, led mostly by Sid (16 PP goals), Michel Ouellet and Mark Recchi (deal God…11 each) and Malone (10).
In 2006-07, they improved to fifth-best at 20.3% with Malkin (16), Recchi (14), Sid (13), Ouellet (11) and Gonch (10) leading the team.
In 2007-08, they got better still, jumping to fourth overall at 20.4%, and that was without Sid for half the year. Malkin (17), Sykora (15) and Malone (11) picked up the slack.
They didn’t hit this tailspin until 2008-09, dropping to 17.2% and good for 20th overall and outside of a jump to 20.6% during the Cup run that year, they’ve struggled since.
Did Malone just mean that much in front of the net? Was it that important to have guys on the wings who could also snipe a little bit (Sykora, Recchi and even Ouellet)? Ouellet was awful at even strength, but he was deadly from right around the net picking up those garbage rebounds on the powerplay. Sykora could pinpoint shots from the top of the circles.
Who even knows?
Maybe along the lines of the “sniper” thing, it seems as if too many guys are deferring to the pass. No one is shooting. Sid’s not shooting enough. Malkin isn’t shooting enough. Neither of the point men – Gogo and Letang – are shooting enough.
Grover and Bourque talked at length tonight on the post-game show about Goligoski’s tendencies to hesitate a little too long to shoot once he has it. Bourque, I believe, even referred to it as Whitney-itis – small moments of indecisiveness or lack of complete trust in his abilities to read the play and get the shot off in one motion.
They also talked of simplifying things, going back to a more conventional set-up and working the puck around as opposed to this convoluted mess they’re trying to orchestrate at the top of the zone. Kunitz has proven to be a decent in front of the net, if not maybe always standing in front, but at least as someone who can follow a shot in and look for rebounds. Crosby’s also had some success generating offense from behind the net, which allows them to get Malkin out on his more familiar spot on the right circle.
It’s worth noting that we saw this last year, too. The powerplay struggled for a couple of months and then eventually settled in during the second half of the year. But the same concerns remain; 4-for-38 over the last nine games is still leaving too many goals on the ice.
The goaltending has come around, at least by the looks of the last few games. Fleury seems to have found his game. Secondary scoring is coming back as well. The biggest elephant in the room is now the powerplay. And Mike Yeo isn’t here to kick around anymore.
Let’s see what Bylsma does with this.
Quick thoughts, dudes…
= Some pretty sick chemistry the last couple of games with Asham and Malkin.
= Comrie was holding on to Callahan’s jersey during that fight like it was a roster spot.
= Clint Hurdle. What a human.
= Loved the banter between Errey and Potash last night discussing Mario Lemieux’s old locker room stall up for charity auction.
Errey: You know, I actually sat in that stall.
Potash: So did I.
Errey: No, I actually had my hockey equipment there.
= Find myself watching Paul Martin sometimes and thinking, “Gonchar was bad his first three months here, too. Gonchar was bad his first three months here, too.”
= Ditto for Michalek, although he seems to be getting there quicker than Martin.
= Hoped for 20 goals from Comrie this year, expected about 15. Now just hoping he’ll outscore Orpik. That said, Comrie’s got himself probably four more weeks to prove he belongs on this roster. It’s really hard to argue against any of the other forwards right now. Even Conner.