Discipline is the biggest concern for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They are taking many ill-advised penalties, and they are taking the majority of these penalties in the offensive zone. Pens players are also getting mixed up in scuffles when they should walk away. Dan Bylsma cannot bench the goons who are responsible for these dumb penalties. Most of the time, the guys who are going to the penalty box are his top players. James Neal and Evgeni Malkin lead the list of culprits who are guilty of dumb penalties.
The Penguins are right in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the NHL when looking at their total penalty minutes and penalties per game. The team does not seem to have a discipline problem on the surface. If we take a closer look at the overall picture, they most certainly do.
Think very hard and try to remember the Penguins taking a penalty by crushing an opponent in front of their own net, or hauling down an opponent who is more than likely going to score. These instances would be good penalties to take, and for the Pens, they are few and far between. The majority of the Penguins penalties are undisciplined and taking place in the neutral zone or offensive zone. There is never a time when the Penguins should take an offensive zone penalty unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Taking a stupid penalty is going to happen. As perfect as some of these players may seem, they are going to lose their cool on occasion. Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang have all taken bad penalties in the past few games, but when will they learn?
The Philadelphia Flyers have developed the recipe for beating the Pens. The Flyers try to cause as much chaos as they possibly can in an attempt to turn the game into a circus. There were 18 penalties between the two teams in their last meeting on Wednesday night. This script played right into the Flyers hands. They want to get the Pens’ stars caught up in the chaos and to get under their skin. Instead of the Penguins ignoring the extra-curricular acts demonstrated by the Flyers and walking away, the Pens continue to walk right into a trap.
The Penguins, and especially their stars, should know teams are going to attempt to be physical with them. When you have the talent that the Pens have on their roster, the only way teams can stop them is by taking the body and being physical. Brooks Orpik says that everyone on the team is aware of the discipline issue, but the entire team gets too caught up in their emotions.
“I don’t know how many times we can address it. We know how they (Flyers) play,” said Orpik. “We know especially once we get the lead that they like to target certain guys on our team. Zac Rinaldo goes off with Tanger. That’s a pretty good trade-off for them. I don’t think that’s very good for our chances at winning hockey games. We can talk about it as long as we want, but we have to go out and do it now. You can talk about it until your blue in the face but that’s no good if you go out and do the opposite.”
The Flyers have made it clear that the Pens did not learn their lesson from last year’s playoff debacle. The Pens will still take stupid penalties whenever they play the Flyers. There is more to the Pens’ discipline problem than taking penalties too often.
Getting to the Core
Not only are they unable to control their emotions, but they are not making the right decisions with the puck. The Pens pride themselves on puck possession. Once they have possession, their decision making with the puck is not as good as it should be. Too many giveaways in the neutral zone, and right inside an opponent’s blue line, show the Pens have a lack of discipline when they possess the puck as well.
After the Pens and Flyers game came to an end Wednesday night, the official NHL score-sheet showed that the Pens had four giveaways and two takeaways for the game. These statistics are not accurate. Anyone who watched the game could pick out one shift where these statistics do not hold water.
Against the Flyers, the Pens gave the puck away nine times right inside the Flyers’ own blue line. This is a dangerous area where the Pens need to be smarter with the puck. On top of that, the Pens had a puck intercepted an astonishing 14 times in the neutral zone and 12 times in their defensive zone.
In this area of concern, the Pens’ superstars, especially Crosby and Malkin, are the two who deserve the most blame. The Penguins gave the puck away in bunches against the Flyers and have been guilty of giveaways throughout the season. They are trying to get cute in the neutral zone or on entry plays entering the offensive zone.
Bylsma stresses playing hockey in the offensive zone as much as possible. The Pens are making life hard on each other by not getting the puck deep and getting into the offensive zone as many times as possible. This all comes back to having discipline. When the Pens have a lead or do not have an odd-man rush, they need to make a smart play with the puck.
Against the Florida Panthers Saturday night, the Pens did a much better job in regard to their discipline. They only took two penalties and had fewer total turnovers (17) than they did against the Flyers. The game was not as exciting or as flashy as their last, but the Pens paid much more attention to their discipline. This is the way they will need to play if they want to be a Stanley Cup contender. The Kunitz goal below would’ve broken out into a huge fight against the Flyers, but on this night Malkin was smart and pulled Kunitz away showing some discipline.