On Tuesday, Nov. 29 the Pittsburgh Penguins lost 3-2 to the Carolina Hurricanes in overtime. Even without the controversial non-call that led to Carolina’s overtime goal, Pittsburgh more than likely would have still lost the game. The Penguins have definitely improved in many areas, however, there are still some parts of their game that need work. With the Hurricanes being a division rival, it is important that they make the necessary adjustments before the two teams meet again on Dec. 18 in Raleigh.
Penguins’ Power Play
The Penguins’ special teams have been an area of concern since the second half of last season. That being said, the penalty kill has drastically improved this year, with players such as Jeff Carter seeing more PK minutes. Carter has not only excelled on special teams this season but has also been playing well at 5-on-5. With the recent return of Teddy Blueger, the Penguins are hoping the PK continues to improve.
However, the Penguins’ power play has been a different story, as it currently ranks 27th in the NHL and it did not improve against the Hurricanes. They had two power play opportunities during the game and failed to score on either one. Their top power play unit was made up of Jeff Petry, Bryan Rust, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Evgeni Malkin. The number of turnovers combined with the sloppy, unorganized puck handling just gave them more of the same results. This has definitely been an area of frustration for the team because if you look at the talent they have on the power play there is no reason they shouldn’t be producing goals.
The Penguins have one of the best teams in the league when it comes to 5-on-5 play. However, it seems like the minute the other team goes down a man nothing goes right for Pittsburgh. One of the biggest problems still plaguing the power play is the lack of urgency, as there isn’t ever any real threat to score. It could also be that the team has not had the right players on their top unit.
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One change the Penguins recently made to the power play was adding forward Rickard Rakell to the top unit and moving Rust to the second unit. Rakell has more than earned a spot on the top unit as he has been one of Pittsburgh’s most dangerous forwards this season. He has a more aggressive style of play and a finishing ability which are two things the power play is severely lacking right now. He also seems to make everyone around him better so it will be interesting to see how the first unit performs now that he is on it.
Complete Team Performance
Another area the Penguins have struggled with is a consistently good team performance. They did not have any depth scoring against the Hurricanes which is something they desperately need in order to be successful. Blueger recently returned to the fourth line and has been finding success with linemates Josh Archibald and Ryan Poehling. Poehling is currently sidelined with an injury, but Archibald’s strong skating and forechecking combined with Blueger’s smart offensive play has been working in the Penguins’ favor.
Penguins Finding Momentum
The Penguins are currently third in the Metropolitan Division, and have won their last two games. The power play is starting to gain some traction with Crosby scoring a power play goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night in their 4-1 victory. The biggest thing they need to figure out is how to have the whole team contribute for 60 minutes. The second half of the season is nearly here, and it is never too early to start thinking about the playoffs. The Penguins will face the Hurricanes twice before the end of 2022 and need to pull off a win in both games.