Penguins Power Play Boot Camp


When you throw names like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, David Perron, Kris Letang, and Olli Maata, the first thing that should come to mind is, “The Penguins power play is going to be as ridiculously unfair as a Harlam Globetrotters game.”

The fact is, for some reason they look more like the disjointed Washington Generals.

The Penguins power play is a mere 11.43%, good for 26th in the league which is surprising since they have so much offensive firepower.  Especially when the started off last year at an impossible, unsustainable rate of nearly 50%.  Since then, they’ve fallen back down to Earth, and landed hard.

Rick Tocchet has taken the power play heat.  Supposedly he’s in charge of the power play design, although Twitter reports say his power play involvement is a gray area.  Whoever is in charge, doesn’t seem to know these players very well.  More times than not, I’ve seen Kessel being set up for a slapshot on the man-advantage, but anyone that has read anything on Kessel should already know, it’s his wrist shot that’s deadly, not his slapshot.

Last year, the number of slapshot goals he’s scored is hovering close to zero.  Mountains of information flooded in when Kessel was brought on board, and near the top, if not at the top of that list, was Kessel’s deadly, hard, accurate, sneaky, wrist shot.  The reason for that shot?  His incredible flex stick that he uses.

It has an unreal bend, which makes that shot hard to track.  It’s essentially useless on a slapshot, due to that same bend.  The windup for a slapshot with a super flex stick would have to take twice as long as a rigid stick, because of that same flex.  When he does rip it, not only does it take longer, but with that windup comes loss of accuracy.  Not ideal for a power play.

Am I able to see this, but not the coaching staff?  Why are they so stubbornly trying to force these players out of their comfort zones?  Starting off the year splitting their superstars into two power play units, instead of overloading one, was mind-boggling enough, but now, finding a scheme that clicks with all of these stars, is it really that hard?  It never used to be.

What the Penguins need is a coach that knows firsthand how to quarterback a power play.  I think I know a guy, and I think he might already be on the payroll.

Sergei Gonchar.  The name rings a bell.  He was brought in to run the power play from 2005-2010, during which the Penguins won a Stanley Cup.  He performed so well for the Penguins, they actually considered bringing him back this year and gave him a professional tryout during training camp.  That’s how dire our power play is.

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As it turns out, Gonchar, know as “Sarge” in his playing days, didn’t have enough in the tank to keep up on the ice with this speedy team.  So, he hung up his skates and accepted a position with the Penguins as “Defenseman Development Coach.”  Gonchar is a bonafide power play expert.  He’s worked with some of these guys before, Malkin, Crosby, Letang, he knows their strengths, weaknesses, preferences, like Malkin’s love of a monstrous one-timer, or Sid’s ability to set up camp down low by the goal.

Sarge should be given a chance to run his own power play boot camp, even if it’s just power play drills in practice.  I’d love to see his ideas, I’d love to see if the players respond since there’s already a rapport, and if this power play remains powerless, I think good ol’ Sarge is due for a promotion, and fast.