Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Penguins power play short-circuiting before season starts?

Head Coach Dan Bylsma has reconfigured the power play.  He has Sid and Geno on the same side (the right), with Sid a the goal line and Geno on the half-wall.  Letang is at the left point, Kunitz is in front of the net.  The most controversial move is putting James Neal at the left point.

When is the last time you can remember Neal winding up for a big slapper?  He has a deadly wrist shot, or maybe even a half-slapper, but the classic booming shot?  Nope.  I'm not saying he doesn't have it, but we haven't seen it.

Neal also hasn't shown any affinity for covering up on defense, especially when you consider the offensive skills of Kris Letang.  Le Game is prone to jumping into the play, and while his recovery speed is among the best in the game in my opinion, you'd probably rather have someone that has some defensive skill on the other side.

Dejan Kovacevic has a great article articulating the reasons why this isn't the best idea.  He also says the power play hasn't looked great in the first two days of camp.  His suggestion is to bring back Sergei Gonchar from Ottawa to fill the right point as a starting point - you should go read the article to see what else he says.

I agree in spirit with Dejan - James Neal is too dangerous to be playing the point.  I'd much rather see him in the slot as much as possible (or, as Dejan suggests, in front of the net with the freedom to move to the slot).

Here's where we differ - I think the Pens have a few internal candidates that are defensively responsible enough to play the left point.  I'm thinking specifically of Ben Lovejoy.  Maybe you put him on the right point so he isn't on his backhand to keep pucks in the zone, but he would be a good compliment to Letang.  I'd also take a look at Simon Despres if he makes the team.

Nether guy has the offensive game, but both would provide some defensive stability.  Keep them out high and covering up against short-handed rushes.  That would even give Sid, Geno and Letang more room to move around (as those guys like to do).

Of course, I'd also be a big fan of bring Sarge back to Pittsburgh.  I'm just not sure what you'd have to give up (hopefully not much) and who would sit.  Please don't even suggest sending out Paul Martin for Gonchar - Martin is a better defensive guy than Gonchar is right now, and it isn't close.

No comments: