Much has been made this season about the Penguins penchant for dropping the gloves. The team currently ranks third in the NHL in fighting majors with 41. Those fights, undoubtedly, are a huge reason the Pens lead the league in penalty minutes per game with 16.1.
What must be added to the equation, however, is the number of minor penalties the team has taken. To this blogger’s amazement, the Pens lead the NHL with 227 minors, by far the most in the league. Doing the math, that’s over FIVE a game.
I guess a joke could be made here regarding the Pens’ top-ranked penalty-killing unit. Well, they sure have enough practice. But make no mistake – this trend is no laughing matter.
Rarely is there such a thing as a good penalty. The fact the Pens are taking so many of them is disturbing. To point out the obvious, these penalties are hurting the team’s offense. It’s much harder to score while short-handed. Penalties also disrupt the flow of the game and the rolling of line combinations, neither of which are helping the Pens cause.
Taking so many minors is also putting too much pressure on the PK unit. Sure, they’re doing an amazing job thus far, but those are tough minutes game in and game out. Those guys (Adams, Dupuis, Staal, Talbot to name a few) can do only so much. If the Pens keep taking penalties at this rate, it just might wear down the penalty killers at the worst possible time – heading into the playoffs.
It’s imperative that the Pens start to play smarter and cut down on the infractions. It would help if guys like Matt Cooke stopped taking the occasional stupid penalty as well. The team can’t keep asking the PK to bail it out. Most of the time, they do. But sometimes, like Monday against Boston, penalties cost the Pens a game. Stay out of the box, keep the PK fresh and control the flow of the game.