Have you ever been asked the question “if you had one wish, what would it be”? Well, I’ve finally got an answer for that. It would be to never ever have to read a tweet that says all the Penguins power play has to do is shoot the puck. It’s not going to help. They’ve tried it and it doesn’t work.
Anyone can shoot the puck. Literally ANYONE. Unless this player is in motion or there’s someone in front bothering the goalie, that shot is almost never going in. I know you don’t score on 100% of the shots you don’t take, but the whole point of a power play is it gives you a chance to create high percentage scoring chances. A random shot, even several of them, are not necessarily high percentage chances. Hell, the vast majority of shots on goal don’t even register as scoring chances on official stats. For the love of all that is good and decent, don’t just say “shoot the puck”. It has to be with a purpose.
As always, the Penguins play an umbrella. That is three up high, trigger men on the half walls, and two guys down low. But those low guys aren’t battling for position in front. There’s nothing stopping the goalie from making the save. What’s worse, Tampa runs the exact same power play so they know how to defend it. They get sticks in the lanes and close down the puck much faster than most teams.
The other issue is that with the angle the shots are coming from, any missed shot is rimming around the boards to the points. Our D men are there and ready, but unfortunately so are the Tampa high forwards. If you watch, almost every single turnover is at the top of the circles close to the boards. Now instead of a 5 on 4 for Pittsburgh it becomes a 1 on 1 foot race back to the Pens zone between a speedy Tampa forward who’s already moving in anticipation against a flat footed back pedalling Penguins defenceman.
Pittsburgh needs to work the puck to the two low guys just off the side of the net, and then quickly put it up into the slot for the shot. It’s the same set up, but the shot comes from a different angle. Any missed nets from there will fall to the corners. Since Tampa has both high players waiting for the rebounds to come up to the top of the circles, it becomes 3 on 2 down low and Pittsburgh will recover the puck for second chances every time.
As a bonus, since it’s the exact same setup, as soon as Tampa starts to cheat down on the new danger, the Pens can go back to working up high without missing a beat. Having just one option isn’t enough in round 3.
So if Tampa runs the same PP, why is it ok for them to do it? It’s all about box positioning. The Pens defend it by cutting the zone in half and trying to stop the pass altogether. There doesn’t seem to be any plan B for times when the cross zone passes get through. It’s prevention or bust. It’s ballsy but risky.
The Lightning have penalty killing figured out and have created a short handed odd man rush on literally every Pens power play this series because of it. We need to stop playing right into their hands.