The Pens recent woes with the man advantage have been well documented. For a team struggling to score goals 5-on-5, this is not a good time for the power play to be in a prolonged funk.
So, what the heck is wrong? Well, two things jump out – the departure of Alex Goligoski and the absence of Chris Kunitz. Unfortunately, only one of these problems can be corrected. Kunitz is back and healthy, and his presence in front of the net should have a positive impact on the PP. Kunitz does a great job of creating screens and deflecting shots from the point.
Goligoski, however, is NOT returning. But the Pens have a suitable replacement in Alex Kovalev. Now all the team has to do is let Kovalev be himself on the PP.
Without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and with no offense to Kris Letang, Kovalev is the Pens most skilled offensive player. He’s also the team’s most experienced power-play sniper. Kovalev has 132 career PP goals and 377 points – way more than anyone on the active roster. The man just knows what he’s doing out there. (And for those saying he’s too old, Kovalev had 17 PP goals in 07-08.) He should possess the puck more, and he should definitely shoot the puck more. The power play needs more from Kovalev, and the coaching staff needs to give him the freedom to contribute wherever necessary. At this point, the PP needs all the help it can get.