Pittsburgh Penguins’ Power Play: Chasing History


Right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins power play is on fire, plain and simple. With a conversion rate of roughly 40% and a tally of 13 goals, it is the league’s best by a wide margin. The question is, can the Penguins’ primary power play unit of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Chris Kunitz, and Kris Letang sustain this level of success over the course of an entire season? If it can, the feat would necessarily be one of historic significance.

If the 2014-15 Penguins are to secure for themselves an honored place in history, they will have to overcome NHL legends to do so.

The power play conversion percentage for Crosby and company to beat is 31.88%, posted by the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens. This unit, led by NHL greats Steve Shutt and Guy Lafleur, converted 73 of 229 chances ranking them as the NHL’s all-time best. Yvon Lambert was also a key contributor as were defensemen Larry Robinson, Guy Lapointe, and Serge Savard. The Canadiens’ lethal power play, in no small way contributed to the team’s dominance in the 1970’s, a decade which saw them win five Stanley Cups!

The current Penguins need look no further than the owner’s box to find the key architect behind two of the most prolific regular season power plays in league history.

During the 1988-89 season, Penguins’ superstar, Mario Lemieux, along with Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey, and winger Rob Brown, produced 119 goals while on the man advantage. That is the all-time league record for power play goals in a regular season.

In 1995-96, “Le Magnifique” was at it again. This time with the help of a powerhouse lineup – Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Thomas Sandstrom, and Sergei Zubov, whom many Russian players consider to be the best ever from their country at running the point on a power play. The unit performed brilliantly together, finding the net 109 times, a total second only to that of Lemieux’s 1988-89 group.

Perhaps the most lethal power play in history was that of the 1955-56 Montreal Canadiens. Playing in an era when the duration of a power play was a full two minutes – regardless of whether a goal was scored or not – Hall of Fame players such as Maurice “Rocket” Richard and Jean Beliveau, among others, had a field day when on the man advantage, very often cashing in multiple times on a single penalty. In fact, the Canadiens dominated the other Original Six teams to such an extent that the league held a referendum on the unlimited power play rule, voting five to one to limit teams to just one goal on a penalty.

The 2014-15 Pittsburgh Penguins’ power play has a lot going for it and should be taken seriously as one that can challenge the aforementioned NHL records. Not only is the Penguins’ primary power play unit talent-rich, but it employs a diverse attack, enabling it to strike in a multitude of ways.

If its core players can stay healthy – and that’s a big if considering the injury history of Crosby and Malkin – I like its chances to rewrite the record book.

What do you think of the Pens’ power play, Pens fans? Comment below and let us know!