The Pittsburgh Penguins powerplay has been their undoing this series. Since the start of the the Stanley Cup Final, the Nashville Predators have without a doubt played excellent hockey. So much so that many would argue that the series should not be simply tied up 2-2 going back to Pittsburgh.
A notable trend is a glaring weakness for the Pens in their abysmal powerplay, and their inability to generate chances in the offensive zone.
In the Playoffs the Pens are firing at a great rate on the powerplay. 15 for 72 at around 20%. Unfortunately none of this success has transferred into the finals, as the Pen’s forwards have yet to solve the tight defense of Nashville. Whether it is their fore-checking, positioning or offensive talent, the D core of Nashville are proving to be a rare mesh of playing styles.
Prior to Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final the Penguins had been held to just three shots, none of them goals, on their last ten man advantages. This spans the Cup Finals. But the Penguins’ power play issues run even deeper than a lack of scoring. The power play is worse than ineffective — it’s actually giving the Nashville Predators more scoring chances than it is the Penguins.
In game three, Nashville had recorded more shots on goal on the penalty kill, than Pittsburgh had recorded while on the powerplay.
So far in the series, the physical play of Nashville has continued. As of now, they are not afraid to play a gritty (some would argue dirty) style of hockey. Unfortunately for the Pens, the Preds are simply amazing on the penalty kill. This, in tandem with Pittsburgh’s inefficient powerplay has demonstrated huge imbalances between the teams. As of now the Pred’s D core is overpowering the Pen’s stacked offense.
“It’s the first time in my career that we can’t score on so many chances and we’re not shooting the puck,” said Evgeni Malkin, who has the Pens’ lone power-play goal of the series. “We need to change something. I don’t know”.
“It’s not working. We need to change. Maybe players, I don’t know. But it’s tough to say right now. But I know we played bad on the power play.”
In my opinion, the Pens powerplay is stacked with so many good players. They move the puck and find seams in the defense, and are getting too fancy with their plays. As of now this isn’t working against the Predators defense. The Penguins continue to force plays that don’t succeed against Nashville’s tight, offensive D core. Players are willing to dive and block any shot that they see, making any shot on goal hard earned. The most likely way to score on goaltenders with the caliber of Murray or Rinne only occurs if teams are getting pucks to the net and banging in those rebounds. With the Predators laying a blanket down upon the Pens, this isn’t even possible on the powerplay.
Unfortunately, the most haunting stat for the Penguins is the 1/16 on the powerplay in the Cup Final. The only goal came on the first powerplay in game 1, on a 5 on 3. The Pens have yet to score on a 5 on 4 powerplay. The Pens have 91 shots in the series compared to Nashville’s 124.
More to come as the series continues. Game 5 is 8PM on Thursday.