Question of the Week: What To Do With Pittsburgh Penguins’ Power Play?


Feb 19, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets defensemen

David Savard

(58) and

Cody Goloubef

(29) battle for the puck with Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Patric Hornqvis (72) and center Evgeni Malki (71) during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Blue Jackets won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Each week on City of Champions, one of our writers will go back and forth on a pertinent Pittsburgh sports topic with another FanSided staffer.

This week, I debate the Penguins’ putrid power play with Michael Pityk of Pens Labyrinth. Follow him on Twitter at @MPityk24.

Matt Gajtka: What did you think about the split units that Mike Johnston and Rick Tocchet have gone with this week? I think the idea has promise, especially if it inspires the “shot mentality” that Johnston continues to preach after most games. 

With another fivesome ready to jump over the boards at the first whistle, maybe this setup will make the guys on the ice show a little more urgency in getting the puck to the net, an aspect which has been lacking from their power play for months.

Michael Pityk: Personally I don’t like splitting up the units, I know that splitting them gives them two viable options but there is a combination I’ve been dying to see all year. Evgeni MalkinSidney CrosbyPatric Hornqvist with Kris Letang working the left point and Derrick Pouliot at the right.

I’ve always thought this would be the best combination but we have yet to see it. I do think the shot mentality needs be reinforced because at times the Penguins pass the puck too much looking for the “highlight reel” goal and that contributes to their powerplay woes.

I’m more than willing to wait and see on the split units, I actually wrote about that earlier this year and people really seemed to disagree but we’ll see how it goes.

MG: I suppose if you’re going to experiment, the time to do so is now. At the same time, I would imagine that a few weeks of continuity would be advantageous once we get closer to mid-April. 
What do you think about the placement of Crosby and Malkin on the power play? Should one be given free reign at the right circle, where both seem to gravitate? I wouldn’t mind seeing Crosby on the left side, since he is rarely a threat to shoot the one-timer, and Malkin on the right.

More from Pittsburgh Penguins

Either way, I’m eager to see how having two defensemen out there works out. Letang and Pouliot seem like they have the potential to make some real offensive magic at the points, and since they’re opposite in terms of handedness, they each could fire the one-timer easily.

MP: Exactly, coach Johnston should try out as many combinations as needed now to ensure the power play is effective come playoff time. Hopefully by the end of the season the Pens can fix their power play and gain some momentum going into the playoffs.

The two headed attack also hasn’t seemed that effective. Johnston should potentially try and revive the initial unit of Kunitz-Crosby-Hornqvist with Letang and Malkin working the point.

I mean realistically, the flow of the game dictates their placement for the most part. However, with that being said if the “two-headed monster” comes back I’d like to see Crosby down low on the left with Malkin on the right. In theory that would prevent the opposing PK to focus on one side. Do you think Kunitz still has a spot on the powerplay? People have been very critical of his play overall and think he is slowing down dramatically.

I really like that combination of Letang/Pouliot on the powerplay and during 4 on 4 play they should be the top pair then. What do you think about the second pairing on the powerplay? I haven’t been impressed with Christian Ehrhoff but I don’t see a better option. Second pair of Simon Despres and Ehrhoff? (Upon Ehrhoff’s return)

MG: I’ve always been an advocate for having Crosby and Malkin on opposite sides of the ice. I seem to recall Malkin being quite good on the left side earlier in his NHL career, when he and Sergei Gonchar would play catch out by the blue line. The problem is that Malkin’s one-timer is superior to Crosby’s, and being on the left side would limit that greatly. I’d still take Sid on the left I suppose.
As far as Kunitz goes, I think his time as a top-six forward and a power-play performer is over. It was bound to happen at some point, especially considering how much of a beating he’s taken over the course of his pro career. The guy never used to shy away from contact, but now he is much more of a perimeter player and is less effective as a result.
I think Paul Martin has to be an option on the power play, even on the first unit if Pouliot doesn’t work out. He excels at keeping the puck in the zone and I think he has a natural “quarterback” instinct that is ideal when you have a power play that features multiple options.

Thanks again to Michael for his input! Look for this feature on a regular basis here at City of Champions.

Next: Pirates news and views as spring training begins